BFT Night Service

Here in the Tri-Cities, regular fixed-route and paratransit service stops running after 6 o’clock in the evening. However, there is still demand for some sort of transit service to run later into the evening. It is because of this that Ben Franklin Transit came up with a unique solution: “Trans+Plus Night Service.”

Explained in a short summary here on the BFT website, Night Service is a rather simple operation. Sub-contracted to local taxi operator Tri-City Taxi, riders call to make their ride reservation, and then they receive a curb-to-curb ride which more often than not will be combined with the rides of other users. With this service, one can ride between any two points in the Tri-Cities (excluding Hanford) for only $3. Other fare payment options also include a 10-ride ticket for $22 $25, or a Freedom Pass for $44 $50 (which allows unlimited Night Service rides for the month, as well as unlimited fixed-route rides and all other BFT services).

As mentioned earlier, riders must request a ride in order to receive it. (Taxis will not accept riders who flag them down.) Starting at 2PM and ending at 11:45PM each day (Monday-Saturday), the reservation phone line starts accepting calls. When calling the phone number, 545-0684, the rider will be asked for their name and phone number (in case they need to be contacted regarding their ride), and a pick-up/drop-off address. Riders with ADA requirements must inform the reservationist at the time of the phone call, so that they may be accommodated. The first ride reservations are available starting at 7PM, and then continue on in 15 minute increments (7:15, 7:30, 7:45, etc) until 12:15AM. For riders who need to schedule multiple rides each week for their job, there’s the option of setting up all their rides in one phone call. Typically, multiple ride reservations will only be accepted for each calendar week, though exceptions may be made. It should also be noted that not all riders may be accommodated as there is only a limited amount of rides available, so riders are encouraged to call as early as possible.

For the ride, the rider is expected to be ready by their pick-up time. Drivers are only required to wait for 3 minutes before calling in a “no-show” and heading off to the next pick-up or drop-off. Be sure to note though that if the driver arrives early, they are still required to wait until 3 minutes past the scheduled pick-up time. However, it is not uncommon for a driver to arrive after the scheduled pickup time. They have a maximum of 20 minutes after the scheduled pick-up time where they’re still considered “on time,” and the driver will still wait the required 3 minutes before leaving. Once the rider is inside the vehicle, the driver has a maximum of 40 minutes to get them from the pick-up address to the drop-off address. Any violations of the time constraints mentioned or a missed pick-up (within Tri-City Taxi’s control) can lead to financial penalties imposed by BFT.

In my experience, I’ve had fairly good dealings with Night Service. The drivers show up within a reasonable timeframe, are polite and friendly to talk to, and most important of all, always get me to my final destination. That being said, I have had my fair share of bad dealings with Night Service. A few times, my ride has been cut off the pick-up list (usually due to a driver mistake/miscommunication), and I’ve also been stranded a few times. In all those instances though, I was able to get in contact with Tri-City Taxi, communicate the problem, and have it resolved. Except for one time where I had my ride added to a Night Service vehicle that was nearby, Tri-City Taxi responded by dispatching a taxi driver from the regular taxi fleet (who back-up the Night Service drivers as needed), and transporting me directly from my pick-up address to my drop-off address.

Though ideally we would have fixed-route and paratransit service that ran later into the evening, BFT came up with a rather unique solution to serve the demand for evening transit service, and I like it (usually…).

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