Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gastonia to replace bus transit service with on-demand ride-hailing company

Bus terminal
Street View
Gastonia's central bus terminal, where its six routes originate.

The city of Gastonia is cutting all of its regular bus routes and replacing them with on-demand service.

Gastonia operates six bus routes that drew 144,000 riders last year. But starting in July, Gastonia will instead offer on-demand rides through a three-year, $1.65 million contract with River North Transit. That means instead of waiting at bus stops along set routes, riders will use an app, website or call center to schedule a ride directly where they’re going, similar to Uber or Lyft.

Gastonia officials said the City Council hasn’t approved any increase yet to the current bus fare of $1.25. The new service will cover the whole city limits. Officials say on-demand service will be quicker and more convenient for riders, and more efficient for the city than using full-sized buses that currently average just seven riders a trip.

“We saw a need to provide on-demand microtransit transportation to our residents as our city continues to grow,” said mayor Richard Franks, in a statement. “This move away from fixed-route buses will provide cost savings and will increase accessibility for everyone in our community.”

The shift will also help Gastonia phase out its aging fleet of 35-year-old transit buses. The seven buses the city operates are 20 years old. Gastonia officials didn't say exactly what vehicles will replace the buses, though such "microtransit" services typically use passenger vans, SUVs or sedans.

Gastonia's bus routes all pass through the city's central Bradley Station, a covered, outdoor terminal downtown. Wait times can be up to an hour, officials said, which is far higher than transit officials recommend for a system to be useful.

The city hasn't revealed the app or website riders will use to request trips once the buses are phased out. Gastonia will still provide paratransit services for disabled riders.

Gastonia isn't the first North Carolina city to phase out its scheduled buses. It's part of a growing trend among smaller cities and towns trying to save money and expand transit riders' options. Wilson, about 55 miles west of Raleigh, cut its buses and replaced them with on-demand vans in 2022.

But the city's move to discontinue its local bus services comes at the same time as other governments around the Charlotte region are looking to more tightly integrate their services, possibly with shared schedules and fares.

Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.
More Stories