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City Council Approves Transportation Pilot Program

By Arjun S. Byju, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council approved a six-month pilot program for Bridj, a transportation startup, on Monday night. The Council granted the company, which has already conducted limited beta testing in and around Boston, a jitney license, allowing it to operate within city limits.

City Manager Richard C. Rossi and his team worked with the Cambridge License Commission to put Bridj’s application on the Council agenda. The company, which brands itself as a smart transit system that uses big data to produce flexible bus routes, will be monitored by the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department during its evaluation period.

Several council members praised Bridj, hoping that it could provide much needed innovation for transportation in the city. Mayor David P. Maher, although uncertain of the ultimate outcome of the pilot program, noted the potential for progress that Bridj could offer.

“I think that there is an opportunity here. None of us know where it will all go in the future,” Maher said. “But it’s rather exciting.”

According to Bridj’s website, the company will offer comfortable and affordable bus service in the city, using information about where individuals live and work to best design speedy routes. Currently, the service is only available in the Boston area.

While most Councillors embraced the new technology, some had worries about its accessibility to all Cambridge residents. Citing the fact that Bridj utilizes smartphone technology, Councillor Craig A. Kelley argued that the council should not forget the needs of certain residents.

“Not everyone has a smartphone, and we want to make sure that we don’t leave those people behind,” Kelley said.

Similarly, Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan asked the city manager and his staff to consider offering reduced fare rates for seniors and disabled citizens, for whom Bridj might be more difficult to access.

According to the memorandum of understanding submitted by Bridj to the Council, its mission is to “increase mobility for every urban resident by: connecting neighborhoods to jobs that would otherwise be out of reach...providing Bostonians and Cantabrigians with a convenient, environmentally sustainable and affordable alternative to driving in the city and alleviating the peak demand stress on public transit infrastructure.”

Following the addition of an amendment to the policy order regarding proof of commercial auto insurance, Bridj’s application was adopted.

After the six-month period, Bridj will be evaluated for its long-term presence in terms of its safety, noise and visual disturbance, impact on MBTA bus stop congestion, and interference with cyclists and pedestrians among other criteria.

—Staff writer Arjun S. Byju can be reached at arjun.byju@thecrimson.com.

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