Anaheim Launches Electric Vehicle Microtransit System

by | Jan 31, 2019

FRAN at the Anaheim Packing House. Photo by Eusebio Productions.

The City of Anaheim and Anaheim Resort Transportation recently launched FRAN – Free Ride Around the Neighborhood. FRAN is a unique app-based, microtransit system using electric vehicles. The FRAN fleet of 10 all-electric Polaris GEM cars connects popular destinations in Anaheim’s Center City area. The shared vehicles arrive on-demand via FRAN’s smartphone application. The app contains points-of-interest information, and future editions will update driving visitors in real-time on where to park near FRAN pick-up spots.

According to Diana Kotler, Executive Director of Anaheim Resort Transportation, FRAN is distinct from other microtransit systems.

“There are probably half a dozen that are happening nationwide, most of them in California,” she told Energy Manager Today. “Each one is being developed a little differently. We are unique in that we’re using an app. Most others are simply circulating vehicles. We’re more like an Uber-type experience. Also, FRAN is specifically developed to mitigate parking needs. Most of the services like this are started by a private enterprise to monetize the opportunity. In our case, we’re building it as a benefit to the community and to reduce parking requirements for new developments.”

FRAN does not follow fixed routes but rather visits several fixed stops based on riders’ pick-up and destination requests within the Center City area. FRAN is wheelchair accessible, and two vehicles will be retrofitted with a wheelchair-accessible ramp. Operating hours are seven days a week, generally between 11 am to 10 pm/midnight. The 10 Polaris GEM e6 vehicles accommodate a driver and five passengers, and its drivers are knowledgeable docents of the Center City area, much like travel guides.

California has long been a proponent of electric vehicles. In September 2018, state regulators announced that the Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) have partnered to place Envision’s new solar-powered EV ARC HP (High-Powered) DC fast-charging system at two Caltrans Safety Roadside Rest Areas (SRRA) on US101 in rural Monterey County.

“We are in the process of electrifying all public transportation in Anaheim,” Kotler said. “Our goal is to have 100% zero-emission transportation service for the city. That absolutely includes FRAN as well.”

The State of California has set a goal of having at least 1.5 million EVs in use in the State by 2025 and Governor Jerry Brown’s Executive Order B-48-18 directs State entities to work with the private sector and all appropriate levels of government to spur the construction and installation of 250,000 zero-emission vehicle chargers, including 10,000 direct currents (DC) fast chargers, by 2025.

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