GRAND FORKS – Service improvements – including the potential implementation of microtransit into the Cities Area Transit System – are some of the improvements listed in the final draft of the Transit Development Plan over 10 years underway at the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Microtransit is described as on-demand shared transportation that would pick up and drop off passengers at specific locations within a defined area. Users could request a ride via app, online or over the phone.
While other entities have successfully implemented microtransit, DFO lead planner Teri Kouba said DFO and CAT are considering doing so as well.
“There are many different reasons why different entities implement microtransit,” Kouba said. “It’s a way to manage your equipment as well as your staff and your time.”
Microtransit in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks would operate on current fixed bus routes which generally do not have many passengers. Kouba said some of those roads include those north of UND and on the south side of East Grand Forks. Although these routes have lower ridership, Kouba said CAT and DFO still want to continue providing service to these parts of the city.
“It’s certainly about making sure that we can continue to offer services in areas where you don’t necessarily have the most ridership in that area, but it’s certainly an area where people seek to continue to have this service available to them,” Kouba said.
With microtransit, Kouba said there will be a cost advantage, as CAT does not have fixed bus routes for identified low-traffic areas.
“It’s hard to continually have a route that takes that long, that distance, and not have traffic to show it’s worth it,” Kouba said. “Doing this cost-benefit analysis… microtransit will increase this benefit over cost.”
Microtransit will also reach parts of each city that are not currently covered by fixed bus routes for people traveling to and from work. Some of these locations are on the north end of Grand Forks, where there is a lot of industry.
“We have a lot of manufacturing jobs and a lot of other jobs in those areas as well,” Kouba said. “We are also considering whether microtransit or a specific fixed route would be more appropriate, for example, for the industrial park. I know there are a lot of jobs there and people find it difficult to access them from where they live.
Other potential areas where a fixed route could be replaced by on-demand microtransit service are the UND overnight route and the entire city of East Grand Forks.
To successfully implement microtransit, studies must first be conducted to further assess potential pick-up and drop-off locations in established areas, determine expected microtransit ridership, set a rate for the service, and develop a user guide on how to communicate microtransit. plan to the public. Kouba said all of these factors will help determine how best to handle service for the two cities.
“We want to make sure it will work for us and how we set it up to make sure it works, as well as how to make that process as smooth as possible,” she said.
In addition to the necessary studies, available funding is also an important factor in determining when microtransit could be implemented.
In addition to microtransit, the transit development plan will make changes to current fixed routes. Some of these changes involve restructuring routes on UND, which currently has four routes on campus, and combining the two routes that run through East Grand Forks into one.
Throughout the process, DFO collected public feedback on what changes CAT racers would like to see.
A bicycle and pedestrian plan as well as a street and highway plan are also underway at DFO and are open to public input. The three plans will have to be adopted by the two cities.