Microtransit Revolution in North Carolina
The eastern North Carolina towns of Smithfield and Selma are just close enough to Raleigh and the I-95 corridor to find themselves in the middle of a population boom. Together, the two towns have nearly 19,000 residents. But in just two years, Selma’s population had increased by about 8 percent to 6,806, and Smithfield’s by roughly 7 percent to 12,129. So Johnston County Area Transit System (JCATS) stepped up its public-transportation offerings between the two areas.
While large fixed-route systems work well for densely populated cities and urban areas, on-demand microtransit can benefit residents in exurbs like Smithfield and Selma that blend forests and produce and livestock farms with new housing developments. “It’s really difficult to come up with a fixed-route system that is practical for a geographically diverse area like Johnston County,” says Neal Davis, mobility manager for Community and Senior Services of Johnston County.
In March, JCATS launched QuickRide, a public rideshare network similar to the private options provided by Uber and Lyft. But unlike private ridesharing services that set rates by miles traveled, QuickRide passengers pay a flat rate of $6.00 per trip. Riders on fixed incomes pay discounted fees. After a four-month pilot program, QuickRide now averages around 75 rides per day.