A few Gainesville Connection riders gathered Wednesday to hear from the city about plans to end fixed-route buses and expand a new ride-sharing system.
All Gainesville Connection bus routes and Dial-a-Ride services are set to end on June 30 and the recently implemented ride-sharing van service, WeGo, will expand to all of Hall County starting July 1.
WeGo, which allows riders to order a van near them through an app or by phone, started in December 2020. The service has been more successful and more efficient than Gainesville Connection or Dial-a-Ride since its rollout, said Phillippa Moss, the Gainesville community service center director.
The operating cost per trip for WeGo vans is $13 on average, while Gainesville Connection averages $26 per trip and Dial-a-Ride is $14 per trip, Moss said.
But for users, Gainesville Connection buses are cheaper. It costs $1 for a full day of busing, while the WeGo service is $3 per trip for each person.
Dial-a-Ride vehicles are booked by appointment at least 48 hours in advance, but WeGo vans arrive in 10-15 minutes on average within a few hundred feet of riders, Moss said.
The changes to public transit in Gainesville and Hall County are being made based on Moss and her staff’s recommendations to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is the federal funding source for Hall Area Transit.
“When we introduced WeGo back in December we were really excited about it,” Moss said. “We knew it would perform well, but we didn’t know it would perform as well as it has. … It’s ridership has exceeded Dial-a-Ride and Gainesville Connection.”
Whether in pandemic or non-pandemic times, WeGo is more cost effective, she said.
John George, who attended a 10:30 a.m. public hearing, used the Gainesville Connection several times a week before the pandemic began in March 2020.
“I still feel fixed-route (busing) has a place as Gainesville continues to grow,” George said. “But I’m open, and we’ll see.”
George said he has not used WeGo yet but is planning on using it soon. He said he is hoping the service will implement a discount for seniors, like himself, because the Gainesville Connection bus fare is one third the cost of WeGo for one ride. Currently, seniors can purchase reduced fare cards for the Gainesville Connection.
When he asked Moss about reducing rates during the meeting, she said this was something that she could look into, as well as discounts for frequent riders.
There is currently a system where riders can pre-pay for rides at a slightly discounted rate. Through the WeGo app, riders who use the service to commute to work, for example, can pay for seven rides for the price of six. At the highest level, a rider can pre-pay for 28 rides for $72, which is a 14.3% discount.
Cristina Perez, who works at the Gold Creek Foods poultry plant, has ridden the Gainesville Connection for 20 years, she said.
“A taxi would be $10 each way,” Perez said. She has used WeGo a few times already and is happy with it so far, she said.
All the WeGo van drivers will be workers who have already driven buses or vans for Gainesville, said Jeff Wimpy, who trains Gainesville public transit drivers. WeGo has five vans in Gainesville, and once will eventually expand to 15 for the entire county.
The city will hold additional meetings virtually at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow. The zoom link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81268055312.