Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bus Grid System would Benefit Bus Passengers more than Downtown "Stakeholders"


A 2007 Public Transportation Programs for Seniors Final Report, prepared by The Beverly Foundation, in partnership with the American Public Transportation Association, states that according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):

"Public transportation is 'transportation by a conveyance that provides regular and continuing general or special transportation to the public...' as defined by the federal government. It includes services by buses.... It also includes demand response services for seniors and persons with disabilities...."

I was pleased to see the article, "Move to bus grid said to be feasible" in the "Springfield News-Leader" today. According to the article:

"Last year, the OTO updated its regional Transit Development Plan. Among its recommendations:

"City Utilities Transit should consider a change in the basic route structure it currently uses within the City of Springfield. Because of the effective grid roadway network completed within the City, the transit system should take advantage of such a network and implement a grid based system. This would also relieve some of the pressure on the transfer facility as transfers could occur at key intersections within the grid.""

Also, according to the News-Leader article, local architect Dan Scott, " thinks he may have designed a more efficient public transit system than the one City Utilities currently uses," and Scott claims it can be done without increasing costs exponentially, "He believes his plan would need, at most, one more bus on the two north-south lines," the News-Leader reported.

If, as the headline reads, a move to a grid system is feasible, it makes more sense in terms of providing service to those who actually need and utilize public transportation for Springfield's public transit provider to move toward a grid system than to spend stimulus and other grant monies on a new downtown bus transfer facility.

I've been looking over CU's contracted final feasibility study, and although the study lists a handful of customer safety and convenience issues, for the most part the stated "need" seems to be more focused on aesthetics meant to benefit business owners, developers and other transportation operators in the downtown area than in providing streamlined services to better benefit public transportation patrons.

Indeed, the stakeholders interviewed by the August, 2008 study provider, TranSystems, in association with Esterly Schneider & Associates, Inc., were identified as: "...representatives of the Urban Districts Alliance, the City Manager's Office, the City's Economic Development Department, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and those operating other transportation services in downtown."

The study's "Assessment Summary and Conclusions," states:

"In short, the existing facility is functional and well located relative to key destinations. It is, however, cramped and does not reflect in a positive way on the transit system or its users. It is not an attractive element of downtown Springfield."

The safety and convenience issues, noted above, are identified as: bus and pedestrian conflicts; bus/automobile conflicts; the perception of personal security; impacts on adjacent roadways; convenience and; operational functionality.

The "Assessment Summary and Conclusions," described the safety categories ranked "fair," based upon the three level scale of "poor, fair and good."

City Utilities addressed the safety and convenience issues of its passengers in the report by proposing the addition of designated bus bays, "ample space for bicycle storage in the form of bicycle racks," and providing "space for landscaping and open space to create a pleasing area for pedestrians and waiting transit passengers."

Section 1.2 of the feasibility report states:

"A tremendous opportunity exists for transit and the downtown area of Springfield. The community is in a position to leverage funding from the Federal Transit Administration to create a modern downtown transit center and in turn contribute to the continuing redevelopment of downtown by addressing the parking shortage."

I would prefer to see more emphasis placed on accessibility and timeliness issues for bus passengers than aesthetic beauty of the downtown area, personally.


Related: Bus Transfer Facility Feasibility Report, source: "Community Free Press"

CU seeks extension of grant as site search goes on Springfield News-Leader

Bus system ridership statistics graph, source: "Springfield News-Leader"

Springfield bus system subsidy graph, source: "Springfield News-Leader"

Grid-style bus plan aims for more efficient routes, source: "Springfield News-Leader"


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