Saturday, March 28, 2009

Asheville Transit Master Plan Meeting: April 2

Here is an update on the Asheville Transit site. Please attend the April 2nd meeting!

Transit Master Plan Preliminary Recommendations to be Presented to Public

The consultants, HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas, creating Asheville’s first-ever Transit Master Plan are presenting their preliminary recommendations to the public on Thursday, April 2, from 4pm to 7pm at the Civic Center Banquet Hall. Attendees will be able to view and comment on proposed bus routes, schedule changes, and potential new services. The event’s purpose is to receive feedback from the public before the plan is submitted to City Council.
According to city staff and steering committee members who have seen initial recommendations, the Asheville Transit System’s (ATS) new route structure will feature 30 minute service along parts of Patton Avenue, Haywood Road, and Tunnel Road. There may also be a cross-town route to connect Louisiana Avenue in West Asheville, with neighborhoods in east Asheville.

“The consultants will give multiple presentations to precisely lay out their recommendations,” said ATS Transit Manager, Mariate Echeverry. “The hope is that the public will point out shortfalls in the overall plan before the report is complete.”

The City currently operates with 20 buses. The system is configured as a Hub-and-Spoke system, with service on each route originating and terminating at the downtown transit center. The vast majority of ATS customers are those for whom transit is their main if not only means of transportation. About 30% of all passenger trips made on the ATS are transfers made at the downtown transit center. The other 70% of users either terminate their trip at the transit center or are moving along the routes they originally boarded. About 10 to 14% of current customers say they have a vehicle which could have been used for the trip being taken on the bus.

The final report is expected to be delivered in late summer of this year.


When Will I Be Able to Ride the Bus to Work Again?

I have been neglecting this blog because of shame!!!!! The bus doesn't go where I need it to go so I have been driving to work (off Long Shoals Rd.) I've been hitting road along with all those other drivers one to a car.

Okay. So enough for excuses. I do need to do some updating. I did attend the Transit Master plan meeting back in January. It seemed to be well-attended. More people than I expected. Of course, those attending were, in my opinion, those who ride the bus out of choice, not necessity. It was set up so that you could drop in, talk to members of the consulting group, write your suggestions down, etc.

Before this meeting, there had been two surveys done. A paper survey that was given to riders on buses. I missed that one. Not sure how long the papers were given out, etc. And there was an online survey, which I took. An Asheville Transit Employee at the meeting told me that the priorities in the surveys were distinctly different. The #1 change people who took the paper survey wanted to see was bus service on Sunday. The #1 change people who took the online survey wanted to see was more frequency. This makes sense, considering that riders of the bus who took the paper survey were probably people who ride the bus mostly out of necessity and they need Sunday service as well as service all the other days of the week. Those of us who took the online survey can hop in our cars on Sunday...but would like for the bus to be more convenient during the week...running more often.

As I recall from the meeting, one of the things we had the option to do was vote for our top 3 priorities for Asheville Bus Service. Things to choose from were: Sunday service, more frequency, more routes...and I can't remember the others. (A clue to which 3 I voted for!)

At other tables, we wrote suggestions on post-it notes. I saw A LOT of suggestions that Long Shoals Road get a bus route. Of course, I would notice that, since that's what I want!

Another question I have is if Asheville Transit will get any federal stimulus money?

I guess I came away feeling that there is not enough money for all of us to get what we want. We need more riders to have more money to operate buses more and to get more riders, especially middle class riders, the bus needs to be more convenient, but it won't be convenient till there are more riders who buy more tickets...

The notice about the findings of the consultants is on the Asheville Transit site. I will copy and paste it into a separate post. What I saw on the site didn't help me at all, but I am still staying hopeful.

Next Transit Master Plan meeting - at the Asheville Civic Center on Thursday - April 2nd from 4pm - 7pm.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Walk in the Reeds

I would completely leave this one to the rats, but my co-blogger insists that I write up this particular experience, so here goes. My memory of it is hazy.

Four weeks ago today, I attended an event on the A-B Tech campus, and sheer stubbornness compelled me to ride the bus to work, then take #8 (I would have had to wait another 30 minutes for a better bus) down Biltmore Avenue. As it was, I had to walk about a mile to get from Biltmore Avenue to Ferguson Auditorium on the A-B Tech campus, then I enjoyed a prrogram with Indian Masters.

I totally underestimated the walk home. I could have walked back to downtown (this was after 6:30 PM, and dark), but I aimed to save time by walking home along Victoria, Meadow and Amboy Roads, then State Street. After all, I could have walked back to the transit station (which is probably a twenty or thirty minute walk from Ferguson), then waited for the 7:30 bus, but I thought I could walk home and arrive before 8:10, which would have been my ETA, had I walked to downtown and ridden the bus to Haywood Road.

I was probably correct about the time savings, but this route was far too dangerous. First of all, there is no sidewalk along part of Victoria Road. In fact, I had to huddle against a guard rail with oncoming cars swishing by me. Then, on Meadow Road, where there is again no sidewalk, I chose to walk outside the guard rail for part of the distance (again, it was dark), stomping down on waist-high reedy plants. Much of the time I could not see where I was putting my feet. Scary. Walking in the grass along Amboy Road was a bit safer, though I could see very little, due to the combination of darkness and headlights shining directly in my eyes. At least, along Amboy Road, I did not have tall plants in my path. The walk up State Street was safer still (there is a sidewalk on State Street, and there are street lights). I can't remember exactly, but I think perhaps it took me an hour and twenty minutes to walk home that night.

Of course, if there had been a city bus coming through the A-B Tech campus at 7:00 (or even if there had been a bus travelling along Biltmore Avenue at 7:00), I would have surely chosen to use it. But no.

Oh, and even though it was cold, I walked with my jacket open, so that drivers might see my white shirt rather than crash into me. When I got home, I was tired.