Residents in portions of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties can now access a flexible transportation option through a regional on-demand shared ride pilot service.
Wave Transit launched its microtransit service, RideMICRO, on Oct. 11, as a one-year pilot project. The service is entirely grant funded through a partnership with North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Wave Transit has joined with Brunswick Transit System (BTS) and Pender Adult Services (PAS) to establish a program that provides the best support for each community.
“Implementing a new regional microtransit model is one of our largest accomplishments to date. This is the first project of its kind in the state of North Carolina and we are excited about implementing a service that is flexible and innovative. What started as a discussion transformed into a working plan, and in just a few short months this concept has become a reality,” said Marie Parker, executive director, Wave Transit. “Our new service...is designed to be responsive, economical and accessible.”
Through a competitive solicitation process, Wave Transit selected Bus.com for service delivery and Moovit for a technology platform that will support mobile pay and transportation reservations through a Wave Transit branded smartphone app and web browser. This full technology suite will be available in January 2022 following the initial launch of the program.
“Bus.com is happy to partner with Wave Transit to offer more value to residents by offering transportation solutions to more people in the region,” said Maxie Lafleur, CEO, Bus.com. “We are excited to see our safe, reliable and easy to use on-demand, fully flexible transportation solutions make the community thrive through greater connectivity while encouraging local businesses.”
This new mode of public transportation is more cost-effective than traditional fixed-route bus service and offers an improved customer experience through decreased wait time and advanced technology for transportation reservation and payment, says Wave Transit. Unlike physical bus stops found in a fixed-route service, the stops under the RideMICRO program are virtual, allowing a greater number of stops and increased access for riders. While a traditional fixed route serves an average of 55 stops, microtransit is expected to serve an average 2,000 stops per planned service area.
The RideMICRO program consists of designated transportation zones that are launching in phases from Oct. 11, 2021, through spring 2022. The initial launch includes services to all three counties, including the Northern Brunswick/Downtown Wilmington zone and the Pender and Northeast New Hanover County zone. The Southern New Hanover County and Pleasure Island zone is currently scheduled to be introduced December 2021, with the final Northern New Hanover County zone planned for implementation in the spring. The mobile app technology for the first two zones will be implemented by February and the remaining zones will be added over the following months. Each zone will launch fare free for the first 30 days.
RideMICRO is operating limited hours with the program launch. The hours of operation, 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will gradually expand to reflect the Wave Transit hours of operation. This is anticipated to occur at the conclusion of Phase 4, which is the full program launch.
RideMICRO riders will be able to book their trip by contacting the microtransit reservation office by phone or electronically, by means of a trip booking form. After confirming a reservation, passengers will take RideMICRO at the closest virtual stop to their final destination within the defined zones, or to a Wave Transit fixed-route bus stop. Each microtransit zone will begin with an average of 150 virtual stops, with expansion of up to 8,000 total virtual stops through full implementation of the program.
The fleet will consist of 14 passenger vans and full-size SUVs wrapped in blue and white RideMICRO program branding.