City of Tallahassee StarMetro staff held a series of public workshops to answer questions about the upcoming changes to routes and schedules. Kudos to StarMetro staff at the open house who patiently answered many questions. They were very knowledgeable.
The new transit system to be rolled out August 13, 2016, promises 'greater connectivity and shorter commute times due to more efficient transfers' with 14 routes and one weekend Rhythm bus.
Evident in the conversation last night at Jake Gaither Community Center is that the 'proposed' changes to bus schedules and routes have already been solidified with drivers being scheduled for the changed routes beginning August 13th.
Under the 'old system,' each of the City's 26 bus routes led to a downtown station, where all the routes convened at the bottom of the hour so that passengers could transfer simultaneously. At that time the system of simultaneous transfers was determined to be inefficient because it meant buses had to spend a lot of time waiting; essentially, no bus could leave the downtown station until the last one arrived in order for passengers to make their connections. Thus, if one bus was behind schedule, by default all buses fell behind schedule.
Also in 2011, the number of routes was reduced from 26 to 12. The design allowed for more frequent service, with buses operating nearly every 30 minutes instead of hourly. The transit agency also eliminated the distinction between peak and off-peak hours. StarMetro realized that the two periods didn't have a difference in their level of demand, as its customers tend to be retail and service workers, as well as students, who don't necessarily work on 9-to-5 schedules.
The city distributed thousands of ride guides at the downtown transfer before the switch and mailed out brochures to the city's utility customers detailing the plans. Dozens of public meetings were held in the months leading up to the switch, and the transit agency put alerts about the change on its website, on the radio and on billboards.
- The simultaneous transfer system will be readopted. All buses will be converging at CK Steele Plaza at nearly the same time.
- The system of peak and off-peak hours has also been resurrected.
- Wait time for non-peak times have been increased to 60 minutes on most routes.
Current or historical ridership numbers are not available on-line, so one could not compare increases or decreases over time. The StarMetro Director, Terry Lowe, did indicate that anyone who wanted to see the data could come by the offices and view them.
Staff did say that all new buses, including Dial-a-Ride vans, will operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). When asked if additional electric vehicles would be added, staff indicated that no additional electrics would be added to the fleet and referenced high maintenance concerns as the reason.
No new bus shelters are planned for this year, since bus shelters cannot be installed anywhere where ADA compliance cannot be met. Most often this means there must be sidewalks. Without sidewalks, no bus shelters, without bus shelters, less convenience for people who ride the bus. Additional benches, however, are planned.
A trolley system might be reinstated to travel throughout downtown during mid-day in an attempt to alleviate car trips by downtown workers.
The free Rhythm bus will be reduced to one bus operating every 40 minutes instead of 20.
With future Blueprint and other funding, an additional central transit transfer point may come to the southside of Tallahassee on Orange Avenue near S. Meridian.
Terry Lowe, who headed the City's fleet operations, now also leads StarMetro.
Ivan Maldonado, the previous director of StarMetro, was reassigned within the department and is in charge of Dial-A-Ride services.
You can still provide comments to StarMetro via this Survey Monkey link: