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‘Microtransit’ heating up in Hall as public transit option
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Gainesville Connection buses park at the administration building on Main Street Wednesday, March 20, 2019. - photo by Scott Rogers

Area transit officials hope to move forward on exploring options for a public shuttle service that mirrors app-centered, pick-up services such as Uber and Lyft.

A request for proposals concerning microtransit services in Gainesville and Hall County is being prepared, said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services.

Officials hope to put out the request before July, “allow it to circulate for a couple of months and select a vendor by fall,” Moss said last week.

“Depending on the vendor and terms of the contract, we may introduce microtransit services by spring 2020.”

A report prepared by New York-based Via, a company Hall County contracted with to explore microtransit options, recommends that microtransit cover the entire county, “providing both a replacement for Dial-A-Ride and some fixed-route services, as well as capturing new riders such as those who currently use a taxi or their own private vehicle.”

“What’s been recommended is we do a hybrid system,” Moss said in March of Via’s report. “It’s been suggested we retain some of our routes that are highly effective and efficient, and for those routes that are not, we would replace them with microtransit.”

The main public transportation system now in Hall County is Hall Area Transit, which operates a fixed-route bus system, Gainesville Connection, and Dial-A-Ride, a countywide curbside transportation service that requires reservations at least 48 hours before pickup.

Its future funding is in doubt, however.

As Hall climbs above 200,000 people, it gets redefined as a “large urban area” and federal dollars go away.

“It would no longer be eligible for that 50 percent match,” Moss has said.

Losing the federal funding also comes at a time when transit officials had hoped to expand service, especially with the growing population and employment.