Update, July 21: The Gainesville City Council unanimously approved this contract on Tuesday, July 21.
Hall Area Transit’s new microtransit service, which will be known as WeGo, is a vote away from being a reality in Gainesville this fall and later, other parts of Hall County.
Gainesville City Council is set to vote Tuesday, July 21, on a four-year contract with New York-based Via Inc. for software and technical support that would enable the service – and a major revamping of Hall Area Transit.
“We’re very, very excited about it,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said in the council’s work session on Thursday, July 16.
The service, a public shuttle service that mirrors app-centered, pick-up services such as Uber and Lyft, could start up in October in Gainesville and by July 2021 in other parts of Hall County.
“Unlike other things we’ve done – we've painted the buses, we’ve changed the logo – this is truly a system change,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services, in a previous interview. “A big system change.”
Hall Area Transit now operates a fixed-route system, Gainesville Connection, and Dial-A-Ride, a countywide curbside transportation service that requires phone reservations at least 48 hours before pickup.
Microtransit wlll launch as a major service, taking over Dial-A-Ride as it expands into the county and chipping away at Gainesville Connection, which would drop from six routes to three, Moss has said.
“This is a service that, because it’s so new and uses technology, will attract younger people, so this is an opportunity to really expand our ridership like nothing else we’ve ever done before,” Moss said.
Earlier this year, Hall Area Transit began receiving proposals from vendors specifically targeting the technology behind microtransit.
Gainesville City Council
What: consideration of microtransit contract for Hall Area Transit
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21
Where: Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway
“We’re not interested in having any (company’s) drivers,” Moss said. “We’re looking for the technology we can use in vehicles we purchase.”
The city is paying for start-up and first-year costs through federal stimulus funding. The cost of the contract will be $130,000 per year, Moss told the council.
In the second through fourth years of Via’s contract, up to half of the expenses will be reimbursed through the Federal Transit Administration, and the remaining expense will be split between Gainesville and Hall County Government based on the percentage of trips originating in the city and county, according to city documents.
Vehicles will be smaller than Hall Area Transit’s buses and similar in size to the Ford Transit cargo van.
“We want them to be swift and nimble,” Moss said.