WAVE Transit presents upcoming microtransit project to Brunswick County Board of Commissioners

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 4:08 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Brunswick County residents may soon have a new way to get into Wilmington if they need a ride.

Last summer seemed like the last stop in the county for WAVE Transit.

“There were other partners that were also funding that and several of them decided they weren’t going to fund it,” said county commissioner Frank Williams. “At that point, WAVE Transit was in the middle of a leadership transition and had a lot of its own restructuring going on. We just felt like at that point, we didn’t want to be the only one funding something.”

The move stranded about 1,200 to 1,800 monthly riders, but a new project may bring some buses back into Brunswick County. Unlike the route that stopped service in September, the microtransit project is not a fixed route.

“This would be different than what was there before,” said WIlliams. “What we had before was a fixed route service where the bus would stop at this bus stop and that bus stop and that bus stop to pick up whoever was there. This will be on-demand, similar to Uber.”

While residents do have Brunswick Transit, trips out of the county are limited. That hasn’t made transportation much easier on residents who can’t drive but need to get to Wilmington. The new service would fill that gap and be available to anyone with access to a phone.

“You don’t have to have a mobile app,” said Williams. “Someone who doesn’t have access to the internet can pick up the phone and call and arrange transportation, probably more affordably than they would be able to with Uber or with a cab.”

Commissioner Frank Williams requested a presentation on the microtransit project from WAVE Transit at tonight’s meeting. WAVE Transit will cover how it plans to serve the county without asking for a penny from local governments for at least the first year.

“My understanding is that there will be a project for the first year that is being funded by a fund from the North Carolina Department of Transportation — one year guaranteed and maybe recurring after that.”

That year-long head start will act as a trial run for county leaders to see if there’s a need for the service or if they should pump the brakes.

“This is a good opportunity to assess whether or not there’s a demand because it’s truly on-demand. If there’s a demand, the numbers will show it within a year.”

Last summer, Leland pulled out over $50,000 in funding from WAVE Transit and the county followed suit, making the bus route connecting part of the county with Wilmington nearly impossible.

WECT reached out to WAVE Transit to find out what part of the county can take advantage of the new service and when but wasn’t able to get a response before deadline.

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