Valley Metro, Waymo partner to seek innovative transportation options

Mesa Mayor John Giles, Tempe Vice Mayor Robin Arredondo-Savage, Gilbert Councilmember Brigette Peterson, Glendale Vice Mayor & Valley Metro RPTA Chair Lauren Tolmachoff, Chandler Councilmember Kevin Hartke, Phoenix Mayor & Valley Metro Rail Chair Thelda Williams, Scottsdale Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp and Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith. (Submitted Photo)

Valley Metro and Waymo joined forces Tuesday, July 31 to introduce a new partnership that the two hope will help drive the future of transportation through self-driving vehicle technology.

The event happened amidst two Waymo vehicles on either side of a light rail train at the Valley Metro Rail Operations and Maintenance Center in Phoenix.

“Technology is fueling a transportation revolution,” Phoenix Interim Mayor and Valley Metro Rail Chair Thelda Williams said in a prepared statement.

“Valley Metro and Waymo are joining forces to pilot autonomous vehicle trips to better understand the purpose of real-life trips and connectivity. AV technology, combined with public transit’s expertise, will help bolster and reinvent transportation.”

Ms. Williams was joined by Glendale Vice Mayor and Valley Metro Board Chair Lauren Tolmachoff to announce the partnership’s future possibilities.

“Having additional travel options enhances quality of life for current and future generations and creates greater independence for seniors and people with disabilities,” Ms. Tolmachoff said in a prepared statement.

Valley Metro will begin utilizing the self-driving vehicle technology for first and last mile transit trips next month, according to a press release.

“This is the first partnership between a public transit system and a private autonomous vehicle company that will provide a mobility service outside of a controlled environment,” Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith said in a prepared statement. “Think of it as the start of mobility on demand or mobility as a service.”

Waymo Chief Business Development Officer Shaun Stewart said Waymo is excited to be a part of a search for new transportation solutions.

“We’re excited to learn how self-driving vehicles may connect people to public transit and help fill some mobility gaps across the greater Phoenix area,” he said in a prepared statement.

At the event, light rail rider and Waymo Early Rider Samantha Jackson, spoke on how she and her family use the self-driving vehicle service to travel to their favorite destinations.

“Even though my husband bought me my dream car last December, I would honestly like it to be my last car,” she said at the event. “I have kids and I would love it if they would never have to own a car.”

She said she hopes that the partnership between Valley Metro and Waymo really takes off and she’s glad to be a part of it.

“This is a tremendous leap forward as the public transit industry transforms as the integrator and the backbone of a multi-modal system,” APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas said in a prepared statement.

“Congratulations to Valley Metro and Waymo for providing the leadership and a practical test pilot example of how to integrate this technology which may someday be replicated by many transit agencies across the country.”

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