ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization looking at implementing microtransit service

Microtransit is described as on-demand shared transportation that picks up and drops off riders at specific locations within a defined zone.

05xx22 BusStop.jpg
In this Herald file photo, a Cities Area Transit bus waits at the downtown transfer station on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
We are part of The Trust Project.

GRAND FORKS – Service improvements — including the potential implementation of microtransit in the Cities Area Transit system — are some of the refinements listed in the drafted final 10-year transit development plan in progress 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 riders at specific locations within a defined zone. Users would be able to request a ride by app, online or over the phone.

As other entities have successfully implemented microtransit, MPO senior planner Teri Kouba said the MPO and CAT are looking to do so as well.

“There are a lot of different reasons why different entities implement microtransit,” Kouba said. “It’s a way of managing your equipment as well as your people and your time.”

Microtransit in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks would run on current fixed bus routes that generally don’t have a lot of riders. Kouba said some of those routes include ones that are north of UND and on the southern side of East Grand Forks. While those routes do have lower ridership, Kouba said CAT and the MPO still want to continue providing services to those parts of town.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It's definitely making sure that we can continue services in areas where you might not necessarily have the largest ridership in that area, but they're definitely an area that people are looking to continue to have that service available to them,” Kouba said.

With microtransit, Kouba said there will be a cost benefit with CAT not having fixed bus routes for the identified areas that have lower ridership.

“It's hard to continually have a route that runs that much time, that much distance and not have ridership to show that this is worth the cost,” Kouba said. “Doing that cost benefit analysis … microtransit will raise that benefit in relation to cost.”

Microtransit will also reach parts of each city that currently aren’t covered by the fixed bus routes for people commuting to and from work. Some of those locations are on the northern 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, too,” Kouba said. “We're also looking at if microtransit or a specific fixed route would be more appropriate for, say, the industrial park. I know that there are a lot of jobs there and that people are having a hard time accessing them from where they live.”

Other potential areas where a fixed route could be replaced by the on-demand microtransit service is the UND night route and the entire city of East Grand Forks.

To implement microtransit successfully, studies first need to be conducted to further evaluate potential pick-up and drop-off locations within established zones, determine anticipated microtransit ridership, set a fare fee for the service and develop a user guide on how to communicate the microtransit plan to the public. Kouba said all of these factors will help determine how best to run the service for both cities.

“We want to make sure it's going to work for us and how we set it up to make sure it works, as well as how do we make that process as smooth as possible,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Along with the needed studies, available funding is also a big 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 those changes entail 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, the MPO has been collecting feedback from the public on what changes CAT riders would like to see.

A bicycle and pedestrian plan along with a street and highway plan are also underway at the MPO and are open for public input. All three plans will need to be adopted by both cities.

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
What To Read Next
More than a year after it was first announced, the council on Monday voted 5-0 to move away from the Fufeng project. Council members Kyle Kvamme and Tricia Lunski did not attend the meeting.
After the public input portion of the meeting, the council officially moved to abandon the Fufeng project.
Between opinion pieces and stories, more than 200 articles have been published on the Herald about the project
“The Department of the Air Force deferred to the Department of the Treasury during the (CFIUS) review to assess potential risks associated with the proposed project,” the spokesperson said.