The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) secured a $160,930 grant from the Federal Transit Administration’s Integrated Mobility Innovation Program to test rural microtransit services with the goal of expanding transit access and improving operating efficiencies for transit agencies, according to the agency's news release.
DRPT partnered with Bay Transit and Mountain Empire Older Citizens for an 18-month pilot that began in June 2021.
Since the conclusion of the pilot, both microtransit services have continued. A copy of the report reviewing the pilot can be found on DRPT’s website.
“Microtransit provides people with better access to jobs, health care, and their communities with efficiency driven by technology,” said DRPT Director Jennifer DeBruhl. “Bay Transit Express and METGo! show that on-demand transit can meet the needs of rural communities so that public transportation is serving more Virginians, no matter where they live.”
Bay Transit Express, Mountain Empire Older Citizens Services
Bay Transit Express has its service area in Gloucester County, while Mountain Empire Older Citizens operates METGo! in Wise County and the City of Norton. Bay Transit charges $1 for each ride, and Mountain Empire Older Citizens received a $180,000 grant from DRPT for the agency to eliminate its fare collection for at least four years.
Over the 18-month period, both services experienced increasing ridership, with Bay Transit Express providing 9,039 trips and METGo! providing 38,996 trips. Most of the riders used the service multiple times a week.
During the pilot period, Bay Transit Express expanded its service area, which attracted new riders.
The top destinations for riders were healthcare facilities, grocery stores, and workplaces. Many of the riders don’t have driver’s licenses for a variety of reasons, and microtransit removed the transportation obstacle preventing them from getting jobs. Both services received an overwhelmingly positive response from their riders.
“Microtransit has been a game changer for the communities we serve," said Mitch Elliott, transit director for Mountain Empire Older Citizens. "It truly is the future of rural transportation."