Pilot program gives Decatur shoppers a lift
A pilot shuttle service to take Decatur residents to and from their grocery shopping had only been in place a few days when Shirley Baylis, business development manager for the city of Decatur, declared it “very popular.”
The city of Decatur and the Decatur Downtown Development Authority (DDA) on Jan. 16 launched a shuttle service to transport residents from downtown Decatur to the Publix at Sam’s Crossing Village. By the following weekend, enthusiastic riders were waiting at pickup points to ride to the store, according to Baylis.
“Already, people are telling us how happy they are with the drivers, the service—the entire program. It’s almost like a concierge service. We have pick-up points, but riders can call the drivers and tell them where they are and how many riders there are, and the driver will pick them up,” Baylis said.
The service is a 90-day pilot program that’s an initiative of the Decatur strategic plan, Baylis explained. It is operated by Let’s Ride Atlanta and sponsored by DDA and Publix Super Markets.
Since 2018, Let’s Ride Atlanta (LRA) has operated as the first free electric rideshare program in the Atlanta metro area. LRA states that it “is determined to expand its resources and partnerships in the greater Atlanta metro area to meet the growing demand for green and economical transportation options for both visitors and city dwellers alike.”
“Before the onset of the pandemic, we had a shuttle service that seniors could take for such essential errands as trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the post office. It was very popular,” recalled Angela Threadgill, executive director of Decatur Downtown Development Authority. “Now that the pandemic is—we hope—behind us, we’re looking at restarting that service. In the meantime, this shuttle offers some of the previous services.”
Declaring “almost universal walkability” to be one of Decatur’s most desirable features, Baylis said the recent closing of the Kroger grocery store on Commerce Drive means there is no longer a supermarket within reasonable walking distance for residents, especially seniors who may be less likely to have access to their own vehicles.
“People are delighted to have this option since Sam’s Crossing is a little farther away for some residents and driving there can be a little trickier,” Baylis continued. “They are happy to be able to get there safely and get most of their errands, including having drug prescriptions filled, at one location.”
Unlike the previous shuttle service, the Let’s Ride Atlanta program is open to residents of all ages, though Baylis said it’s especially popular within the senior population.
In addition to convenience, the program is environmentally friendly—a feature DDA continually looks for in programs and services, according to Threadgill. “It uses electric vehicles and allows ride sharing, both of which are good for the environment.”
Baylis added, “We have high hopes for this initiative, as it will not only provide critical transportation to those who need to shop for groceries but do so in electric vehicles that reinforce our community’s commitment to protecting the environment.”
During the experimental three-month service, the shuttles will run continuously from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There will be multiple pick-up and drop-off points around downtown Decatur, including at 254 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., 230 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., 130 Clairemont Ave., Decatur First Baptist Church, and W. Trinity Place at Commerce Drive. Let’s Ride Atlanta’s new service will provide drivers and two electric vehicles for three to four people each in downtown Decatur.
“We have had the opportunity to make such a meaningful difference for people in downtown Atlanta, so we are confident our service also will be embraced in downtown Decatur,” Shundel Cooper, operations manager for Let’s Ride Atlanta, said in an announcement of the program. “Decatur shares our ideals of making people’s lives easier while leading the way on forward-thinking energy practices, so it’s truly a perfect fit.”