Microtransit services could start up in the fall in Gainesville and by July 2021 in other parts of Hall County, if the technology that would allow the service to operate gets government officials' approval this summer.
“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, on Wednesday, June 24. “A big system change.”
Microtransit, a public shuttle service that mirrors app-centered, pick-up services such as Uber and Lyft, has been in discussion locally for a couple of years.
It would fall under Hall Area Transit, which 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 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.
“We’re not interested in having any (company’s) drivers,” Moss has said. “We’re looking for the technology we can use in vehicles we purchase.”
A potential contract with a vendor could be settled when the issue goes before Gainesville City Council, likely in July.
The city is paying for start-up and first-year costs through federal stimulus funding. Hall County Board of Commissioners are set to get updates of the process at its meeting Thursday, June 25.
Also, the federal money will cover $1 million for the service’s 15 vehicles, which 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 has said.