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Public transit system changing to meet customer needs

By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

What if you could get a ride to the doctor, the store, or to work within Mocksville’s town limits, conveniently and efficiently, with a quick call or a couple of taps of your smartphone?

YVEDDI and the Town of Mocksville want the local transit service to serve resident needs, but need input.

Genesis Harrod, transit planner for YVEDDI Public Transportation, said that during the pandemic, YVEDDI transitioned from offering a circulator with dedicated bus stops to conducting a demand-response service, in which riders call the dispatcher and arrange to be picked up and dropped off.

Now the organization would like to use advanced technology to go a step further and offer a microtransit system that would allow residents to arrange a ride via a smartphone app, the internet, or a call to dispatch.  The microtransit software can seamlessly add pickups and dropoffs to a route in real-time increasing efficiency and decreasing wait times for the rider.

Microtransit, a cross between private individual transportation (like taxis and Ubers) and public transportation, is ideal for rural areas that have low population density and a large service area. “Microtransit can help rural towns like Mocksville get its residents to where they need to go, with less wait and more convenience than fixed routes and bus stops,” she said.

Benefits of microtransit include:

• an increased service coverage allows agencies to reach areas that their fixed-route buses may not accommodate, without having to dedicate regular service;

• a flexible service accommodates riders whose schedules may not fit into fixed-route service timings (shift workers/those who work during off-peak hours); and

• efficiency improves with pick up and drop off for riders is at common locations and stops, reducing travel times.

Harrod said the demand-response service has received overwhelming approval from clients who have appreciated being picked up and dropped off at the door rather than waiting at the bus stop and have enjoyed not having to ride for as long as 1 ¼ hours on the previous circulator’s route.

Now the average ride on one of Mocksville’s seven buses is about 30 minutes.

The service is available to anyone traveling around Mocksville, and she shared how some residents are benefitting.

• A student at Davidson-Davie Community College uses the bus to ride back and forth between the campus and his job at Food Lion.

• An employee at one of the fast-food restaurants on Yadkinville Road used to walk to work from Rowan Pointe Apartments but now is able to schedule rides on the bus.

• A man whose wife gets treatments at the dialysis center appreciates the ease of rolling her wheelchair on and off the bus rather than having to lift her in and out of the car and her wheelchair multiple times per treatment.

• Another client is driven to Winston-Salem for cancer treatments.

While YVEDDI primarily transports people around Mocksville, there are situations that allow them to drive people outside of the county, such as to the VA Hospital in Salisbury and to medical appointments in Winston-Salem. Harrod encourages people to call 336-679-2071 and select Option 3 for a reservationist who will take their information and determine what services they are eligible for as well as the fee. There are some free programs available in addition to the usual low-cost per ride, daily, or weekly rate.

Since YVEDDI is a non-profit agency that receives federal and state grant funding, it must apply for permission from the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) before it can make any service changes. Part of that process involves requesting public feedback and holding informational meetings.

Harrod has ridden the bus to talk to riders about their needs and preferences, and she urges residents to take the YVEDDI transit needs survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2H77VJX.

YVEDDI is also hosting a series of short virtual informational sessions to educate the community about the changes to the service which she hopes everyone will attend.

“There is no use in doing something different if people don’t want it. Understanding what people want and need will make our service the most useful for people. If it’s not useful, it’s not cost-effective for us to supply it. We really want their feedback and to let people know that this is a low-cost service that can improve their quality of life and make it easier.”

YVEDDI is also seeking additional drivers. Call 336-679-2071.