Test Drive: WHQR tests WAVE’s micro-transit system

I’ve been excited about RideMicro for some time now, but haven’t had a chance to use it as I rarely cross the river to Leland. But I finally had the time this holiday season and made the trip using WAVE’s latest innovation.

WAVE transit’s micro-transit system has been running for over a month and is slowly developing in phases. The grant-funded service is intended to fill gaps in New Hanover County and surrounding areas.

WAVE executive director Marie Parker described it as “if the transit bus and Uber are having a baby.”

“Basically you’re going to have something that is provided by WAVE Transit,” she explained, “but it will be on demand, and ultimately it will be app based.”

Currently, its services are limited to areas on the outskirts of WAVE’s service area. Zone maps are online, and the areas cover parts of Brunswick and Pender counties, as well as the beaches of Carolina Beach and Kure.

A map of all RideMicro service areas. Zone 4 will open in spring 2022.

“It’s very similar to existing ridesharing services, but just a little different,” Parker said. “We’re trying to reduce the wait times to 30 minutes or less, and our main goal is to make it 15-20. We want to make sure it’s convenient for everyone and still able to serve everyone. world in the region. “

The idea is that transit users who live outside the regular service area can take the microtransit to reach areas served by the bus. It is also the first step towards the return of cross-river transit, after the bus that passed through Wilmmington in Brunswick County lost funding and ceased to operate last year.

Potential runners can currently register in two ways: either by completing a online form at least 24 hours in advance, or by calling 1-844-764-1223.

I wanted to see what it’s like to microwave the river crossing, so I decided to sign up.

I first tried using the online form, but it was best to give them 30 minutes notice of my desired ride over the phone. I called at 4.30am and scheduled a 6.15am ride to a grocery store in Leland.

Microtransit only supports passengers at specific “virtual stops”, but there are hundreds of them. My closest one was a block from my house downtown, so I bought my tickets online then the driver called me around 5:35 am and said she was on her way and that she could come get me in ten minutes. I grabbed my grocery bags and went out.

I drove a block where a large white van was parked with its hazard lights on. The driver called me as I walked and told me the dispatcher told him I had already purchased tickets. When I got in the vehicle, I discovered that I was the only passenger on this little adventure.

Parker told me that traffic is slowly increasing as more and more people find out about the service.

“Our first month, we averaged about 65 people per month,” she explained. “And then we were up to about 95 people. And now we’re over 120 a month.

My driver told me that she already had a few regulars, mostly people who live on one side of the river but work on the other side.

We chatted as she crossed the Cape Fear River, the sky still orange from sunset. I went to Food Lion to do some groceries, and she kindly dropped me off right outside the door so I could enter.

Then, as I was his last date that day, my driver pulled up and waited for me to exit. I picked up my groceries, got back in the van and returned home 30 minutes after being picked up.

Micro Transit is only available at certain times of the day: 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays. But on January 17, they will extend service hours to include 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, with weekday hours from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The time extension is also associated with the launch of the RideMicro app, Parker said.

Before this app goes live, passengers can plan their trips and purchase tickets on the web. For trips with less than 24 hours notice, call 844-764-1223.

To see maps of service areas and learn more about using Micro Transit, Click here.