Sally Stebbins of Flowery Branch doesn’t drive, so she’s excited about WeGo expanding throughout Hall County.
“I think it’s the future of local transportation,” said Stebbins, adding that she’s looking forward to using the service to see her grandchildren in Buford/South Hall.
Kayleigh Dell, an Oakwood resident who just started a part-time job in town, is also looking forward to the service.
“I’ll probably use it going to and from work,” she said.
Hall Area Transit has operated the rideshare transportation service, which functions like privately operated Uber or Lyft, only in Gainesville since its December 2020 rollout.
The service expands to the rest of Hall County on Thursday, July 1.
In the process, WeGo will replace Gainesville Connection, a fixed-route bus service operating in Gainesville, and Dial-A-Ride, a countywide, reservations-only curbside van service that operates throughout Hall.
The last day of service for Gainesville Connection, which began 20 years ago as the Red Rabbit, and Dial-A-Ride is Wednesday, June 30.
Hall Area Transit had planned all along to end Dial-A-Ride when it expanded WeGo into the county. The decision to end Gainesville Connection at the same time came more recently.
After studying cost and ridership numbers over the past few months, “it became very apparent very quickly that WeGo has outpaced Gainesville Connection and Dial-A-Ride in all measurable ways,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services, in May.
By February, WeGo’s ridership eclipsed Dial-A-Ride and Gainesville Connection combined.
And between Dec. 14 and June 11, WeGo had 11,771 riders, compared to Gainesville Connection’s 9,028 and Dial-A-Ride’s 1,250, Hall Area Transit number show.
Fares will be changing as part of the move to WeGo.
Gainesville Connection fares were $1 per ride and 50 cents for each transfer. WeGo had been charging $3 for every one-way trip.
Under the new system, fares will be $2 for any trip up to 5 miles and 50 cents for every mile afterward. A trip from Flowery Branch City Hall to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, for example, is 13 miles, costing the rider $6.
Riders will be able to request rides through an app on smartphones or by calling Hall Area Transit. Users will be able to set up accounts on the app, including a method of payment, allowing for an automatic charge.
What: Hall Area Transit’s new rideshare transportation service
Where: Operates in Gainesville, expanding to rest of Hall County on Thursday, July 1
Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday
Fares: $3 per trip until Thursday, then it’s $2 for any trip up to 5 miles and 50 cents for every mile thereafter
Signing up: Download the app on Apple or android devices, or call Hall Area Transit at 770-503-3333
In beefing up WeGo, Hall Area Transit will go from five vans to 17.
The vans will launch from locations throughout Hall County based on ridership trends and numbers. Software “algorithms will tell us where the demand is,” Moss said.
“Once the demand starts coming in, the algorithm will start to notice (trends) … and then inform us we need to move our vans here, there and everywhere — instead of it being a guessing game, like we’ve been doing for 20 years,” Moss said.
Without initial data, Hall Area Transit has decided to start the countywide service at various locations around Gainesville, including the outskirts, such as near Interstate 985, Moss said.
Overall, WeGo could end up being a more efficient use of getting riders to preferred destinations, as Gainesville Connection buses traveled routes “whether there’s one person on the van or 16,” Moss said.
“To have a vehicle stationary, just sitting there until it’s ready to deploy is going to have so much cost savings,” she said. “That’s our expectation. It’s just a beautiful thing. It’s a real game changer.”