04/03/09 — GATEWAY hears audience views on changes in county's routes

View Archive

GATEWAY hears audience views on changes in county's routes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 3, 2009 1:46 PM

Andre Selby uses the GATEWAY bus system three or four times a week. On Wednesday, he was among those who attended a workshop at the City Hall Addition to learn more about the system and to offer some ideas of how to improve the service.

"Normally I go to work on it, but sometimes I'll go on it just to get some things done around town," Selby said. "I had a couple of suggestions, but I am just really excited that people are taking a real interest in it. It shows progress I think. I think it's a good program they doing with GATEWAY.

"I was thinking they could have more frequency of rides and stops or offer more special events. I like what I am seeing. I like that there is real thought put in this."

Those were the kinds of comments that workshop organizers were hoping for, said Greg Saur, senior associate with Martin Alexiou Bryson, the company hired by Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation, which operates GATEWAY, to conduct the state-mandated study.

The room was ringed by boards showcasing GATEWAY services, including point-to-point van services, bus services and system routes.

"One of the sections we were most excited about was the future transit options, which include expanding some bus opportunities and also talks about some of the rail that may come, inter-city as well as commuter," Saur said. "That sort of dovetails into Goldsboro's Union Station project that is going on right now.

"The last section was the public comments section where we asked individuals to leave comments as to what works today, maybe what might be needed in the future and to mark on maps where they would like a bus stop or would like to be able to go to this shopping center."

Saur said a number of good ideas were offered.

"There were real desires from a lot of individuals to have the bus system available in these harder economic times to give some better options from mobility and equity standpoints. It is difficult enough to get a job, but if you can't even arrive at the job, it is even harder to be in competition for that job. We heard that a couple of times," Saur said. "Most of all I think that people are really excited that we are taking this seriously... really looking at transit as a way to give opportunity and mobility options to all users.

"The sales pitch here is that maybe even though you have not ridden transit we would like to present transit options that would allow you to come and go. We want this ultimately to be as easy as having a car. You can get to destinations that are meaningful. You can have social and employment opportunities, recreation opportunities and you can use transit to do it."

Ideas offered included longer operating hours and stops at schools in the public schools' Central Attendance Area.

Longer operating hours is an employment issue, Saur said. For example, buses could be available for a person to get to work, but not when they leave to go home, Saur pointed out.

And while it might be beneficial to expand certain routes, it might not be beneficial to extend over the entire system, Saur said. One route that might benefit would be the one to Berkeley Mall and its retail outlets, he said.

As for stops at schools, Saur said the system does not want to be seen as in competition with the county schools bus system.

However, he said he does like idea of parents being able to use the system to pick up children from school or to attend an after-school activity.

Another big issue deals with the length of the routes and the time it takes to complete them, he said. In some cases, the current routes are an hour long.

"A number of people have indicated that it is too long. One of the things where we are really interested in doing this project is restructuring the existing routes and hopefully adding a fifth route that will address some of these distance issues."

Saur said he was pleased with the outcome of two days of ridership surveys taken last week. About 350 people responded to the survey, he said.

"We asked them what they like, didn't like or what could be improved as far as the bus service or van service," Saur said

The survey information, along with comments from the workshop, will be compiled and presented to the study steering committee, which is expected to come up with a future plan for the system.

"We will take all of it and start crafting a new service plan to see what kind of services we can provide over the next five years and what that would cost and how we may be able to leverage new funding or existing funding opportunities in different ways and start to try to meet the service goals that individuals and the public have expressed with the ability to meet those," Saur said. "One of the most interesting points brought up today is that if you are going to set up a service you have got to make sure it can sustain itself.

"Right now, given the economic times, I think there are a lot of individuals who are worried that while we might be able to get up stimulus money and set up service, But that if we cannot maintain it then what good is that?

The study is expected to take five to six months to complete. The next public meeting is scheduled for the second week of July, when the public will be able to comment on a draft plan.

For more information about the study or to make comments, people can contact Saur at 919-829-0328 or e-mail gregsaur@mabtrans.com.