Public Transit System Analyzed

May 16, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Rapid called on the public last week for opinions on existing bus service and suggestions for potential improvements to the current transit system.

The Rapid gathered public input during three community forums held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings as part of its first-ever Comprehensive Operational Analysis.

The COA will evaluate everything — bus routes, schedules, service and stop locations, said Peter Varga, The Rapid’s executive director and CEO.

“We just finished improvement plans on service and we wanted to be able to analyze improvement plans — from the ones we implemented starting in 2000-2001 through the ones we just implemented in January,” Varga said.

“I recommended to the board that the transit system do a comprehensive operational analysis route by route to see what impact the improvements have had and what the overall quality of the service is in the whole system.”

Consultant Tim Crobons of Manuel Padron & Associates said the COA will assess the performance of all routes, service frequency, night and weekend service, transfer patterns, hours of service, and service demands and complaints. It also will incorporate ridership survey data, feedback from The Rapid staff, bus drivers and dispatchers, as well as input from the community forums.

“Ultimately, the purpose is to create service recommendations to optimize bus service,” Crobons said. “Is there anything that’s inefficient today that we can improve? Is there anything we can expand upon? We’re really focusing on two time frames: the near term of one to three years, and the short range of four to five years.”

Crobons pointed out that the most recent ridership survey indicates that 61 percent of passengers use the bus for home-to-work-and-back trips. More than 41 percent of riders are 16 to 25 years of age, which he said is a positive trend for the future of the transit system.

The consultants have completed field observations of service areas to identify areas that are currently not served, are underserved or ineffectively served, Crobons said. To help determine future service demands, they are looking at areas of population growth and density, areas where employment opportunities are growing and areas where income levels might indicate a greater need for mass transit.

Varga said the price tag on the COA project is $272,000, with 80 percent of the cost covered by a federal grant, 10 percent by a state grant and 10 percent by a local match. He expects the study will be completed by late September.    

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