~ Pilot Project Aimed at Covering Service Gaps in Rural Areas ~
BIG STONE GAP – Mountain Empire Transit (MET) will launch a new on-demand transportation service in and around the Town of Wise and City of Norton on Monday, June 28.
METGo! will be part of the first microtransit services in Virginia. Mountain Empire Transit is one of two public transit systems chosen by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) for the 18-month pilot project; Bay Transit in eastern Virginia is the other system. The project will explore how microtransit technology can improve service efficiency and rider experiences in rural areas. Microtransit, in simple terms, is flexible transit with an on-demand option. The transit agencies contracted with Via, a leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility solutions, to launch the shared-ride service.
Using a smartphone app developed by Via and available for download on iOS and Android devices, METGo! riders can hail a ride from anywhere within a designated 11-square-mile zone. The zone stretches from Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park near the Town of Wise to beyond Norton Community Hospital. Rides can also be booked using a computer.
METGo! transportation is free. Like Mountain Empire Transit’s existing service, METGo! will serve all ages. Operation hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“METGo! is a wonderful opportunity to improve public transportation in Wise and Norton and an example of how technology is enhancing transit systems. This new service will allow riders to book trips quickly and easily. Mountain Empire Transit is thrilled to be a part of the transformation of public transit,” said MET Director Mitch Elliott.
Via’s microtransit platform will handle dispatch, pickup, and routing of the METGo! vehicles. Once passengers schedule a ride, they can use the app to track the bus in real time as it travels to their pickup spot. Passengers may be directed to a nearby location corner – a virtual bus stop – for pickup and drop-off.
Via’s advanced algorithms match multiple passengers headed in the same direction, allowing other riders to be added along the route. METGo! will not have designated stops, fixed routes, or schedules; those will shift based on rider demand.
METGo! buses will also have a different look than other vehicles in the MET fleet. Buses will sport a new, brighter blue and green color scheme and feature the METGo! logo.
The new on-demand service will be offered in addition to Mountain Empire Transit’s current service, which requires passengers to call ahead a minimum of 24 hours to schedule trips. Riders can still plan trips by calling the transit dispatch office at (276) 523-7433.
Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Inc., has served southwestern Virginia since 1974, providing a range of services aimed at helping older adults live independently in their homes and communities for as long as safely possible. Services include home-delivered and congregate nutrition, in-home support, advocacy, wellness programs, and more. In addition, MEOC directs Mountain Empire Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Healthy Families for Southwest Virginia, the Mountain Laurel Cancer Support and Resource Center, and the Southwest Virginia Children’s Advocacy Center.
METGO! AT A GLANCE
- Riders within the designated Wise-Norton zone can book on-demand rides using a smartphone app available for iOS and Android devices.
- MET Go! is FREE.
- Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Mountain Empire Transit is one of two public transit systems in the state to receive grant funding for the pilot project.
HOW TO BOOK A RIDE
- Download the app. Search “METGo!” in the App Store or Google Play and tap the “download” icon.
- Create an account. Open the app, press “Get Started,” and enter your information.
- Enter your pickup address, then press “Confirm My Pickup Point.” Hit the + sign if you want to bring friends along. Then enter your drop-off address and press “Confirm My Destination.”
- Choose the ride option that is best for you. Then tap “Book This Ride.”
- Check the app to find out exactly where to meet the vehicle, which may be a short walk from the address you provided.
- The app will display your driver’s name, vehicle model, and license plate number to help locate your ride.
If you need help to get started, call Mountain Empire Transit at (276) 523-7433.