MicroWAVE? Wave's Microtransit arrives in the Cape Fear region
Public transit will cross the Cape Fear for the first time in more than a year.
The bus from Leland to Wilmington ended service in August of last year, after Leland and Brunswick County leadership declined to continue funding. But now, with grant money from NCDOT, a new form of public transit called “microtransit” will help users get from one side of the river to the other.
Wave Executive Director Marie Parker said a ride through the RideMicro program is just a phone call away, and in early 2022 it will be available through an app, which will allow users to track their rides.
“The simplest way to explain it, it may be a little funny, but if transit bus and Uber had a baby, this would be microtransit,” Parker said.
That’s partially because the vehicles used are somewhere between a car and a bus. RideMicro will mostly use passenger vans, and a user may ride with 8 to 16 other people, depending on the popularity of the route.
Service begins Monday, Oct. 11, and will be free until Veteran’s Day, Thursday, Nov. 11. Riders can call a dispatch center to reserve a ride — but must do so at least an hour in advance. Parker said Wave aims to keep wait times relatively low.
“We are trying to keep the wait times down to 30 minutes or less,” Parker said. “Our top goal is to make it 15 to 20 minutes.”
Currently, the hours of operation are limited. Microtransit will run from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Later phases of the program’s rollout will expand hours and service zones.
Initially, service will only be available within portions of Northern Brunswick, Pender, and New Hanover counties in two separate zones. But service will expand to southern New Hanover County in December, with a further expansion to Castle Hayne and the airport early next year.
Riders will get picked up and dropped off at “virtual stops” within the zones currently being served. There are currently more than 200 virtual stops just in the Brunswick County and Downtown Wilmington zone, though Parker says there will be 7,000 to 8,000 virtual stops to choose from by the end of the pilot.
The pilot program is funded for a full year, and Parker has already applied for the grant to extend an additional year.
“The intent is to gather data as well as service in the community,” Parker explained. “Beyond that, our intent for Wave Transit is to implement microtransit as part of our future plans to make sure that the northern and southern border corridors are covered.” She’ll also continue talking to elected officials in Pender and Brunswick Counties about ongoing funding, and she hopes to continue serving those riders after the grant expires.