It was still dark out as Terrance Dix started his East Gainesville route in microtransit bus 601 Thursday morning.
As dawn approached, the 12-passenger microbus picked up its first passengers outside their homes.
His microbus that day was one of two the Regional Transit System began using Monday morning, said Chip Skinner, a City of Gainesville spokesperson.
The buses will pick residents up at their homes from 5:30-9 a.m. on weekdays and take them to the Rosa Parks Downtown Station, at 700 SE Third St. The bus will also take them from the station back home from 4:30-8 p.m.
Dix said he believes the bus will benefit riders because they’ll no longer have to rush.
“I think this will be better for the east side because the big buses can’t fit down here,” he said.
The city paid $250,000 with city and county gas tax funds to provide East Gainesville residents with the new free transit service for a year, Skinner said.
The bus will pick up residents who request a ride. To request, East Gainesville residents can call 352-393-7433.
RTS staff decided there was a need for a transit to cover the difference from people’s homes to the bus stop after analyzing customer feedback, Skinner said. A service app is being developed for future users, and if the buses are successful, the service may expand to other city and county neighborhoods within a mile of bus stations.
The system was designed to help those like Mark Jones, who stood at his usual bus stop Thursday morning wearing a black ball cap.
He expected to see Gainesville’s typical long blue RTS bus roll up, but instead, Dix stopped his smaller, sleeker bus in front of Jones.
Jones, a 46-year-old navy veteran, figured he might as well get in. Then, he discovered an easier way to get to work at Campus Scooters in Butler Plaza without bearing a chilly motorcycle ride.
“It’s just too d--- cold,” he said. “[The microbus is] just more convenient. I love it.”