Buckhead will soon be home to the first microtransit system in a major Atlanta office market.
Buckhead was a local innovator in last-mile connectivity when it established the buc (Buckhead Uptown Connection) shuttle service in December 2003, and it continues that tradition by transitioning from a fixed-route shuttle service to an on-demand service in early 2020.
“When we created the buc there was no such thing as a smartphone, much less on-demand transportation,” Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit that operates the buc, said in a news release. “Transitioning to microtransit allows us to provide a more convenient service for our current riders and also opens up opportunities for expanded service down the road.”
The change was announced Sept. 25 after it was approved that day by the Buckhead Community Improvement District’s board at its monthly meeting. Tracy Paden, a Livable Buckhead spokeswoman, said the only other microtransit systems in metro Atlanta are Gwinnett County Transit, which finished a pilot program earlier this year in Snellville.
Microtransit is built around flexible routes and schedules, similar to popular ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Users download an app that allows them to request transportation when they need it, and within minutes a Mercedes 12-passenger Sprinter van arrives to pick them up and take them to their destination.
In Buckhead the service will be available within the boundaries of the district, which stretches from the Buckhead Village up to Piedmont Center, and across Georgia 400 to the Lenox MARTA station. While exact service details are not final, the board approved funding to operate the buc microtransit during morning and evening commutes, as well as mid-day lunch hours.
The buc will provide free transportation to anyone traveling to or from one of Buckhead’s two MARTA rail stations during morning and evening commute hours. The service will also be available for a small fee for trips not connecting to MARTA rail within the zone of service during regular hours of operation. This type of flexibility allows the buc to meet a wider range of local transportation needs.
“This is exactly the direction that we need to be heading,” Thad Ellis, the district’s board chair and senior vice president of Cousins Properties, said in a news release. “Microtransit leverages technology to deliver better service and provide critical operational flexibility. We’re excited about the opportunities this will bring to Buckhead.”
The board’s vote approved a one-year contract for $607,000 with Via, a provider of on-demand public mobility solutions. Via’s mobile app connects multiple passengers who are headed the same way, allowing riders to seamlessly share a vehicle.
First launched in New York in September 2013, the Via platform operates in the United States and in Europe through its joint venture with Mercedes-Benz Vans, ViaVan. Via’s technology is also deployed worldwide through dozens of partner projects.