02/25/09 — Plans firmed for GATEWAY use survey

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Plans firmed for GATEWAY use survey

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 25, 2009 1:46 PM

Residents will have a chance to voice their opinions about the GATEWAY transportation system April 1.

The meeting is part of a state study examining GATEWAY's performance and organization. It is expected to take five to six months to complete.

It is scheduled for 4-7 p.m., possibly at the Wayne Center. The site had not been finalized as press time.

The meeting format has not yet been finalized, but could allow time for people to examine displays and study information and ask questions with brief formal sessions held every half-hour.

It will be the first of two public meetings.

A kickoff session for the study was held Tuesday afternoon as local and state officials as well as representatives of the consulting firm conducting the study gathered at City Hall to lay the foundation for the study.

Along with setting up the meeting, a steering committee comprised of representatives of local agencies was formed.

Among those are representatives of the GATEWAY staff, governing and transit advisory boards, the city and county managers' offices and county Department of Social Services and Services on Aging.

As originally proposed, the steering committee would have met after the public session. However, the group decided it would be best to meet first to compile information and prepare for the public session.

The steering committee will meet March 24 after the GATEWAY board meeting. Four steering committee meetings are planned during the study.

"One of the things that we really want to do is to get public input so they will know it (plan) wasn't hatched in some back room," said Greg Saur, senior associate for Martin, Alexiou Bryson, the consulting firm conducting the study.

Saur said that the people involved with the study have the knowledge, but that the people who use the system are the ones affected.

"It is important when we meet with the people that we have a draft plan, something the public can respond to," said George Alexiou, one of the Martin, Alexiou Bryson partners.

GATEWAY board member Bob Waller said it is important to contact Mount Olive, Fremont and the county's other municipalities.

Saur and Craig Newton of the N.C. Department of Transportation Rail Division also emphasized the need to publicize the study process as well.

Saur said he also wanted to reach out to people who might not normally be included such as the county's large Hispanic population.

"There is a tremendous number of people in the county who do not realize it (transportation system) is available," said GATEWAY Director Allen Stubbs.

Stubbs said he is in the process of putting together a survey for riders.

GATEWAY is footing $15,000 of the $142,000 state study. The local portion includes $8,700 for the rural side of the bus system and $6,300 for the urban portion.

Normally, the two are separate. However, GATEWAY operates both rural and urban routes.