Innovative Solutions Award Winner: Mobility - Wave Transit (Wilmington, N.C.)/Moovit/Bus.Com
Rapid population sprawl throughout the Wilmington, N.C., region led to certain areas being underserved by fixed-route public transit, resulting in fewer public and shared mobility options where transit network coverage is limited — there were high wait times for riders, long walking distances, and high-cost fixed-route services that weren't immediately meeting the needs of the community in the city and surrounding counties.
To help address the issue, Wave Transit selected Moovit as its provider to power a new on-demand service solution, dubbed RideMICRO, which would provide more frequent service with decreased wait times to help increase ridership; connect transit riders from across the Wilmington region to fixed routes to shorten walk times, wait times, and transfers; and offer a digitized, automated system in addition to the current manual booking and operations system that Wave Transit offered providing workers access to jobs, enhancing the ability of commuters to travel to popular employment centers, and increasing access to higher education and medical districts throughout the region.
“RideMICRO is a regional microtransit service developed as a pilot program through NCDOT ConCPT Grant funding. It functions as local transit for customers wanting to travel within their ‘zone’ and as a first-mile, last-mile connector to Wave Transit’s existing fixed-route network,” explains Wave Transit’s Interim Executive Director Jonathan Dodson. “Expanded transit access through RideMICRO and a user-friendly booking experience in the app allowed for people to live, work, and play in communities that suit their families’ needs while remaining connected to opportunities and services inside the fixed-route network.”
RideMICRO Brings Optionality
Passengers can book an on-demand ride from a virtual stop in one of RideMICRO’s zones to connect with Wave Transit’s fixed-route service or travel directly to their destination. Users of the RideMICRO app can also view real-time arrival information of public and shared transportation and track the vehicles along their route.
RideMICRO connects to many points of interest across Wilmington, including the main transportation hubs in the area, Cape Fear Community College, Battleship Wilmington, and Forden Station to help improve onward travel opportunities.
In addition to being able to plan, book, and pay for on-demand rides, the RideMICRO app combines official information from local transit agencies, as well as crowdsourced information to calculate the best route for each journey.
RideMICRO’s app also provides a Live Directions feature with Get Off alerts to provide step-by-step guidance for the entire journey and service alerts so that users can avoid disruptions and plan their journey accordingly.
“Moovit worked closely with Wave Transit and Bus.com planners to uncover areas of opportunity and bus lines that were underperforming, using rich granular data on local mobility patterns. This helped to ensure that the on-demand service would be a success,” says Yovav Meydad, Moovit's chief growth and marketing officer. “We also suggested virtual stops based on local needs in the RideMICRO zones and integrated Moovit’s routing and fleet management software. We also worked diligently to integrate Wave Transit’s official data and real-time information into the RideMICRO White Label App for complete end-to-end trips using a mix of on-demand and fixed route transit options.”
The Benefits of Increased Mobility
RideMICRO has had a considerable influence on the Wilmington region, which can be seen in the numbers and the impact on the lives of daily commuters.
Previously, Wave Transit only had a phone-based request and dispatch service in place. RideMICRO has modernized this service and provides more connections from Wilmington’s surrounding areas to its fixed routes, shortened walk and wait times, and made it easier to book and track rides.
RideMICRO has a higher percentage of shared rides than any other program in the state of North Carolina — monthly RideMICRO ridership increased seven times in nine months between March 2022 and January 2023, the cost per passenger decreased 85% since launch, there was an 800% increase in daily passengers since launch, and more than 70% of on-demand bookings originate from the RideMICRO app.
“RideMICRO introduced an interesting new transit option into a system that has offered standard fixed route and paratransit services for many years,” says Dodson. “Wave Transit staff are better positioned to adapt to changing service needs thanks to the practice planning, launch, and development of RideMICRO offered.”
Possible Project Expansion
The project lays the foundation for future regional Mobility as a Service opportunities — connecting additional counties and towns for better mobility, and introducing other forms of shared mobility such as e-bikes and e-scooters that could potentially be booked and paid for by users in the RideMICRO app.
Wave Transit was recently awarded funding through NCDOT’s ‘Mobility for Everyone, Everywhere’ program which enables the agency to expand service into a rural community north of its existing microtransit zones. Additional vehicles will be deployed to ensure customers receive reliable service.
“Wave is a proven example of how unified mobility, integrating all mobility options into one convenient digital app experience, can revolutionize transit. Not only in dense urban areas but in regional and rural areas as well where fewer mobility options tend to be available,” says Meydad.
“We are excited to win this award and to see RideMICRO be acknowledged and celebrated,” adds Dodson. “The program and its easy-to-use app, created by Moovit, have created regular customers out of individuals who have never taken public transit before.”