WeGo, a rideshare transportation system and smartphone application operated by Hall Area Transit, has seen services stall as demand continues to exceed the number of transit buses on the road.
Users of the app climbed 55% in February compared to last year, according to Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services and general manager of Hall Area Transit.
At the start of last year, WeGo averaged about 350 riders per day, Moss said. Now, with a total of 17 transit buses available to riders, WeGo has 480-500 people requesting rides within a 24-hour period. WeGo’s transit services, funded both by Gainesville and Hall County, received about $2.7 million in fiscal year 2023.
“The demand has exceeded supply – the program is very, very popular,” Moss said. “We typically have 14 on the road, and sometimes we have fewer because we have … preventive maintenance requirements … so there are times we may be down 4-6 vehicles.”
Some residents who rely on the app – like Jerri Webb, a 65-year-old retiree – have recently been left without access to affordable transportation due to the rising demand – oftentimes receiving a notification that reads, “We are experiencing high demand and all of our seats are full. Please try booking again in a few minutes.”
Webb, who recently “gave up” driving because of her declining vision, doesn’t have a vehicle of her own. She said she depends on WeGo to get to a grocery store or the pharmacy for her medications.
Webb said she requested a ride 19 times throughout the day on Feb. 24 and was never connected to a driver.
“I have no peripheral vision,” she said. “All I see is what’s immediately in front of me. I just continued to drive because in our society, especially in Gainesville, you need to be able to drive … I had one too many accidents and thought, ‘I have got to give this up.’”
Moss speculated that the program’s recent expansion to offer rides countywide has likely contributed to the limited availability of drivers for the growing number of riders, stating, “Basically, we’ve gone from 35 square miles to 400 square miles … we’ve expanded our service area times eight.”
Moss, who said hiring qualified drivers also has been an issue, believes five new passenger vehicles coming in this week could ease the strain on WeGo's bus fleet. There are also plans to request more vehicles this summer, she said.
“At any given day, there’s about 30% of the rides we’re not able to fulfill,” she said. “... we’re going to be requesting additional vehicles come July. (City and county officials) have very much recognized the demand – they’re very happy with the program, and yet they also understand the demand is higher than we can fulfill.”
Moss said folks seeking transportation through the WeGo app will likely find a ride easier in the morning than in the afternoon, stating that demand is often highest from 3-6:30 p.m.
“There’s a 3-4 hour timeline there that is challenging …” she said. “I hope our riders will stick with us and know that we’re doing our best to fill the gap as soon as we can, and we’re grateful for their patronage.”