A public transit form of Uber or Lyft hit Gainesville streets Monday, Dec. 14.
Three vans began hauling passengers to destinations across town at $3 per trip, with about 20 or so people having taken advantage of the new service as of mid-morning.
“We expect 25-50 trips a day between now and the end of December,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services. “It’s going to take a while for people to learn about the service and try it out.”
Kathy Lightfoot, who used the service Monday morning to take her to her job at the Hall County Government Center on Browns Bridge Road, said she’d be using the new service frequently.
“I don’t have transportation of my own, so this is my primary way of getting to and from work,” Lightfoot said. “It’s very convenient. One of the convenient things is that I don’t have to try to get change or buy a ticket. I just go on the app, and it pulls the money directly out of my account.”
Riders use a smartphone app to request trips, paying through an account they set up on the app and then tracking, if they wish, the driver’s progress to where they are waiting. Riders may be directed to walk to a certain location determined by the app as the best spot for the pickup.
“It’s about efficiently capturing people along major arteries, where it’s easy to pick you up and easy for the vehicle to keep going,” Moss said.
For now, the service is operating just in Gainesville, but plans are to expand it to Hall County on July 1. The total fleet will be 15 vans. Three are in service now, with six on standby and six others that will arrive later, Moss said.
Microtransit service has been in the works for a couple of years, as officials began exploring public transportation options.
The concern has been one of funding. As Hall climbs above 200,000 people, it gets redefined as a “large urban area” and federal dollars go away.
Hall Area Transit’s fixed-route system, Gainesville Connection, is expected to continue but with a reduction in routes from five to three. Dial-A-Ride is expected to end once WeGo is expanded into Hall.The vans cost about $1.8 million, or $120,000 apiece, and were paid for through the federal CARES Act passed earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.