DART Connect, an Accelerating Innovative Mobility (AIM) pilot program aimed at filling transportation gaps for people in the Georgetown and Millsboro areas of Sussex County, launched on Monday, officially making it the state’s first on-demand microtransit service.
Customers can use the service via the DART Connect smartphone app. To ensure accessibility to residents who don’t have a smartphone, it can also be used by dialing 1-800-652-DART from any telephone and selecting the option to request a ride on-the-spot. The service uses small-scale transportation, including vans, cutaway buses (the smaller buses used for paratransit), taxis and Uber and Lyft drivers who are registered with the Office of Public Carriers. The fare is $2 — the same as the public bus.
Georgetown is a diverse rural Opportunity Zone that is approximately 45% non-Hispanic white, 30% Latino, 15% Black and 4% Asian. Six percent of Georgetown households have no access to a car, limiting access to transportation for work, necessary errands or school for about 450 residents.
“Georgetown is such a key employment, social services and medical hub, with agriculture and manufacturing and Beebe Hospital nearby in Lewes,” Veronica Vanterpool, chief innovation officer for DART, told Technical.ly last September when the DART Connect program was announced.
Georgetown is also home to Delaware State University, Wilmington University and Delaware Tech Community College campuses, as well as the Perdue plant. Nearby Millsboro, which is included in the DART Connect service area, is home to manufacturers including Merck’s Manufacturing and Supply Division.
Vanterpool explained how it will work:
“Let’s say you live in Georgetown and the nearest bust stop to you is about half a mile away, but to get to it you would have to cross a very busy roadway, making it less accessible,” she said. “You would open the app and the app would show that if you want to, say, go to the Perdue plant from home, there is a vehicle that is making a drop off at your neighbor’s house about three houses away. The vehicle will meet you there and bring you to the nearest bus that is leaving closest to your time to get you to the Perdue plant.”
DART Connect replaces the Flex Routes 901 and 902 which served fixed destinations throughout Georgetown and Millsboro on an hourly schedule. The DART Connect app is available in the Google Play and Apple App stores in both English and Spanish.