This afternoon I attended an Impact CR meeting with Joseph Kern of SRF Consulting Group, one of the transit consultants hired by the Corridor MPO to study route and schedule improvements for CR Transit. SRF and Bourne Transit Consulting have teamed up to do the study that is to be completed in November.

Today’s meeting, with about 10-15 in attendance, was for the consultant and planning staff to get an impression of what the young professional demographic hopes to see improved with the system. Pretty much all my ideas and concerns were raised during the meeting. It seemed to come down to a balance between routes serving greater area (heavy focus of the current routes) versus more direct routes that result in quicker service. Also, pretty much everyone agreed on prioritizing improvements that would help dependent over features to attract new choice riders. However, I hope we do not settle too easily for a dependent-majority ridership. More choice riders means more riders overall, and therefor potentially better service for everyone. I am not transit-dependent, but I’d like to be able to take transit for a variety of trips in town without sacrificing a lot of time or convenience. It should be noted that I was one of only two people there who regularly take the bus here.

It sounds like the proposed routing changes will be relatively minor, but a good first step as CR slowly becomes more transit friendly. As Joseph Kern commented, if you can focus on improving service and amenities along a few specific, busy corridors, then that can help build more support and demand for further system changes. But of course, every system and city is a little bit different. Providing clear and ample information and marketing is certainly an important part of those changes.

For a few weeks now I’ve been working on my own CR Transit overhaul proposals – mostly for fun. My approach was more to start completely from scratch, but I soon realized that most of the current routes probably do work pretty well, it’s just a matter of adjusting them to interact better. After today’s meeting I have decided not to continue this effort as there really is no point to, and I’ve struggled to finish the remaining routes – particularly on the west side of town and in Marion. This route proposal was never intended to be scientific or taken literally, but more to represent bigger concepts to improve the system. Concepts such as adding transfer points besides downtown, implementing some crosstown routes, and increasing service frequencies on more heavily-used corridors, such as First Avenue between downtown and Lindale. Generally these ideas were all represented in today’s meeting so I’m sure some additional transfer points and better route syncing will be in the consultant’s final recommendations.

It’s clear any route and service improvements in the near future are not going to be drastic. Something that can be done more immediately, I believe, is better information and marketing. Availability and clarity of information was an expressed concern by many today. County Supervisor Ben Rogers claimed if his car broke down someday, he wouldn’t know how to get to work and back on the bus. I’m sure he could figure it out, but it’s no exaggeration that transit information is provided very minimally and poorly. Better marketing (knowledge of the system and service it provides) and a variety of information tools would benefit both dependent and choice riders.

You can view my incomplete CR Transit route proposal here. Note new transfer hubs at: downtown intermodal facility, Lindale Mall, Westdale Mall, corner of Edgewood and Blairs Ferry, and at Boyson Road and C Ave NE. I still intend to finish writing an extensive post about specific concepts and information tools I think could be implemented to provide better service for dependent riders and attract new choice riders as well. This will come sometime next week, as I’m going to DC tomorrow for a week, where I’ll be getting around predominantly by transit.