Delaware Transit Corporation, Via launch state’s first on-demand service

April 19, 2021
DART Connect is an FTA-funded pilot project aimed at providing integrated transit services in “hard to serve areas.”

Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), which operates DART First State transit service, has launched DART Connect in partnership with Via. DART Connect is Delaware’s first on-demand microtransit service that DTC says “will transform mobility in rural communities.” The new service is funded through the Federal Transit Administration’s Accelerating Innovative Mobility grant program and will serve Georgetown and Millsboro in Sussex County.

“Our customers across the state have been requesting transit services in many hard to serve areas, and we are excited to launch this innovative approach to providing people the mobility they need,” said DTC CEO John Sisson. “The full-scale deployment of this service is expected to be a game changer for the transit industry, especially for those systems serving more rural and suburban areas.”

On-demand microtransit uses smaller vehicles to provide shared rides within 15 minutes of a ride request. DART Connect replaces the Flex Routes 901 and 902 which served fixed destinations throughout Georgetown and Millsboro on an hourly schedule.

Customers can request a ride using the new DART Connect smartphone app, which is also available in Spanish, or calling a customer service line.

DTC notes on the first day of launch, April 12, ridership on DART Connect surpassed the average daily ridership of the previous 901 and 902 Flex routes.

“We continue to look for opportunities to expand public transportation to underserved areas of the state and we hope this pilot program will serve as a model that we can implement in other areas of our state going forward,” said Nicole Majeski, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation.

Delaware Gov. John Carney added, “By introducing on-demand transit, we are taking the first step to ensure Georgetown and Millsboro residents and workers have access to an affordable option to safely reach jobs, appointments and other activities that many of us take for granted.”

Georgetown, designated as a Federal Opportunity Zone, and Millsboro are key employment and health services hubs with strong agricultural and manufacturing sectors. DART Connect increases service frequency and expands access to transit for thousands of residents, workers and visitors lacking access to a vehicle or who rely on bus service to travel to jobs, medical and social services throughout these communities.

"We’ve heard for years that connecting residents of our most rural and underserved parts of Sussex County to their jobs, doctor’s appointments, goods and services is a challenge that will take a major investment to overcome,” said Delaware’s U.S. Congressional Delegation of Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del). “This past year has proven especially hard as we are trying to connect residents to health care, vaccines and job opportunities. This is why we are proud to support this federal funding which will bridge the transportation gap that has hindered Sussex County residents for so long.”

“Nearly six percent of households in Sussex County lack access to a vehicle,” said Veronica Vanterpool, DTC chief innovation officer and project manager for DART Connect. “It is important that transit agencies test new technologies and explore innovative service models to provide quality bus service for our customers, especially those with limited mobility options.”

Via’s IMS technology will create a fully connected mobility network that transforms the way DTC provides transit service, particularly in rural, low-density communities, where service can be infrequent and ridership can be low. DART Connect is technology-powered transit that will reduce barriers to transit access, such as the lack of first/last mile connectivity to transit and strengthen the employment sector in rural Sussex County. The results of this pilot project will serve as a blueprint for cities and transit agencies across the U.S. to expand access to affordable, efficient and equitable transportation solutions.

“We are proud to partner with Delaware Transit Corporation to expand access to equitable, efficient and sustainable transportation for rural communities," said Via CEO and co-founder Daniel Ramot. "This new service demonstrates the tremendous opportunities that are created when Federal funding is made available for tech-enabled transit solutions.”

Phases two and three of the DART Connect pilot will allow customers to use the DART Connect app, and pay the $2 fare using the existing DART Pass app to plan and book a trip on DTC’s 62 bus route network to connect to destinations throughout the county and state. DART Connect will be the first app in the state to allow customers to plan, book, pay and track their ride request in one seamless experience.


Editor's Note: Mass Transit spoke with Veronica Vanterpool, DTC chief innovation officer and project manager for DART Connect, about the project late last year. The interview can be viewed here.