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Monday, May 20, 2024

Wave increases routes and frequencies, as $2 rideshare tops 3,000 virtual stops

RideMICRO’s has increased to over 3,000 virtual stops, including to public accesses in Carolina and Kure beaches. (Courtesy Wave Transit)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Wave Transit, the region’s public transportation service, launched its rideshare platform, RideMICRO, in October. Ever since, virtual stops have increased tenfold; on Sunday, Wave’s coverage area will expand to include weekend hours for beach access.

“Most people won’t have to walk more than a block or two to find the nearest virtual stop,” Wave mobility manager Brianna D’Itri said.

READ MORE: Wave launches tri-county ride-sharing microtransit service, free for first month

RideMICRO offers curb-to-curb service, similar to Uber and Lyft. The typical ride is $2 and destination points cover Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover counties. 

“In addition to expanding into two counties, we’re also changing our service within our typical network,” D’Itri said. “In northern and southern New Hanover County, instead of running 40-foot fixed bus routes, which have been running somewhat empty, we’re transitioning away.”

D’Itri said they’re leaning more into the rideshare program in rural, low-density areas, as it enables greater reach with an increased number of stops “into the thousands instead of tens.”

She added the cost remains low to encourage ridership and the transit authority doesn’t have plans to raise prices. 

“We want to keep costs of this for the customer the same or similar to using our fixed network,” D’Itri explained. “And make it equal and equitable to go farther than we typically go.” 

Four zones have been phased into Wave’s microtransit service, including stops to almost any public access point along Carolina and Kure beaches. Pleasure Island has always been served by Route 301, but that bus route will be fully replaced by RideMICRO July 3.

“It can bring you much closer to many of the attractions in that zone,” D’Itri explained.

All zones include: 

  • Zone 1: Northern Brunswick, including Leland, Belville, Navassa and downtown Wilmington (and the Battleship), weekdays only from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and noon to 7 p.m.
  • Zone 2: Pender County, starts at Forden Station, up to Hampstead, weekdays only from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and noon to 7 p.m.
  • Zone 3: Southern New Hanover County and Pleasure Island, from Long Leaf Park up north down tow Kure Beach, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday,  9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • Zone 4: Northern new Hanover County, including ILM, Wrightsboro and up to the I-40/117 intersection, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday,  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

RideMICRO does not currently serve Wrightsville Beach or beaches in Pender and Brunswick counties.Though, riders can be picked up at 3,000 other “virtual stops” — GPS location points similar to a bus stop.

Locations have been strategically chosen to include grocery stores, shopping plazas, the airport, medical facilities and more. D’Itri said, since the stops don’t require a physical landmark to be created, they can also be added, removed and modified based on community feedback.

Demand and impacts from Covid-19 indicated a need to branch out into surrounding communities, specifically to reestablish connectivity to Northeast Brunswick County and introduce service to Southeast Pender County. Wave stopped regular bus routes to Brunswick County in September 2020 and never served Pender. Both counties signed a partnership agreement and NCDOT contributed an additional $200,000 in state funds — not out of local budgets — to the microtransit program. 

From October 2021 to June 20, Pender County accounted for half the rides — 728 of the roughly 1,400 — across all three counties. Key Pender County stops include the Hampstead Annex, Poplar Grove Plantation, Porters Neck Country Club and Ogden Park.

In Brunswick, there have been 488 rides since microtransit launched last year. Significant points include Lanvale, The Villages Shoppes, Leland Community Park, Leland Library, Navassa Community Center, Brunswick Riverfront Park and more.

Virtual stops in New Hanover — which account for roughly 200 rideshares to date — now extend all the way to the Fort Fisher Ferry Terminal and north to CFCC.

“In addition to expanding into the two counties, we’re also changing our service within our typical network,” D’Itri said.

The bus route is adding more frequent service for routes 108, 201 and 205 — which cover Market Street, Carolina Beach Road and Long Leaf Park. During peak hours, buses will run every 30 minutes, instead of operating in 60-minute frequencies. Route 107, which services College Road, will have a 60-minute frequency. 

And for the first time, buses will run on Market Street between College and Gordon roads as Route 104.

The bus routes also are adding extended hours: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekdays routes will run 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

An adult one-way bus pass is $2 but full-day options ($5) as well as weekly, 10-day and monthly passes are available, and run up to $40. (Reduced pricing is offered to individuals 65 and older, K-12 and UNCW students and individuals with disabilities.) Riders can purchase tickets on any Wave bus or at Forden and Padgett stations.

RideMICRO’s app is the easiest way to connect and accounts for 40% of bookings, D’Itri said. Though riders can call a toll-free number, buy tickets at Badgett or Forden Wave stations, or purchase online through the Wave website.

Riders can use the app to pre-plan trips and book a week in advance, if needed. Options to request accessibility and specific accommodations can be made through the app as well.

The RideMICRO initiative is a pilot program funded by a $600,000 grant from North Carolina Department of Transportation and an additional $100,000 from additional state funding. For the program to continue next year, Wave has requested continued state funding.

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