07/30/09 — GATEWAY will offer free ride, cut route

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GATEWAY will offer free ride, cut route

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 30, 2009 2:08 PM

When the tax-free holiday comes next week, the GATEWAY buses will be rolling with people riding free of charge.

The Goldsboro-Wayne County Transportation Authority Tuesday morning agreed to continue the three-year-old tradition as a way to promote ridership. It also cut the cost of all-day fares from $2.50 to $2 for full fare and from $2.25 to $1 for reduced fares for the disabled and senior citizens.

Authority Director Alan Stubbs was questioned as to how the tickets would be monitored to ensure that no one will try to use the ticket for more than one day.

The color of the tickets will be alternated from day-to-day and they will have the date on them as well, he said.

Tuesday's meeting, which included a public hearing on route changes, was delayed an hour for some board members to attend a memorial ceremony at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in memory of two base airmen who died two weeks ago in Afghanistan.

The hearing opened on schedule at 10 a.m. and was recessed to 11 a.m. to allow members to attend the ceremony.

The tax weekend is Aug. 7-9, and for the second year in a row, people may ride free on Friday and Saturday on a first-come, first-served basis. The GATEWAY buses do not operate on Sunday.

"We had a tremendous amount of riders (last year)," Stubbs said.

Chairman Bruce Gates said he was "not comfortable" with the free rides in light of a number of buses being out of service because of repair issues.

Stubbs sought to reassure Gates that while some vehicles had been out of service that "we are in the best shape that we have been in a while."

However, he added that making free ridership on a first-come, first-served basis should help ease any remaining concerns.

No one from the public attended the hearing that lead to the demise of a three-month trial route to Pikeville and Fremont and to the continuation of a modified route to Dudley and Mount Olive. Both of the routes began April 15.

"The Fremont-Pikeville route basically has not done anything," Stubbs said. "I feel we should discontinue it."

Stubbs said the route was being used by only one person on an irregular basis. He asked that the route end on Aug. 1.

The Mount Olive-Dudley route has been more successful, but requires some modification, he said.

Stubbs recommended that new stops be added, including one at the Mount Olive Wal-Mart on N.C. 55 just west of town. On the Goldsboro end, he suggested eliminating stops at Wayne Memorial Hospital, Cox Boulevard and Wayne Community College.

Those stops are not utilized enough to retained, he said.

He also suggested that the Mount Olive route be made a deviated fix route meaning that people could call the dispatch center and have the bus deviate from its route and pick them up.

"Making changes we can make the Mount Olive route work," he said.

Gates asked Stubbs if he had spoken to people in Mount Olive about the routes. Stubbs replied that he had not. Rather, he said, he has spoken with the drivers who are familiar with the routes and ridership.

Member Bob Waller noted that even if the Goldsboro stops were eliminated that riders could still transfer to another bus at the system's transfer center and take another bus to the discontinued stops.

Stubbs added that more must be done to advertise and promote the route.

"A lot of people tell me they did not know (about the route)," he said.

Stubbs suggested passing out fliers, possibly with a discount coupons at locations in Dudley and Mount Olive.

The route changes were unanimously approved.

Board members also agreed to a change in the urban Slocumb route.

Stubbs said he had received requests for a stop at Edgewood Community Developmental School. Some of the system's older riders volunteer as foster grandparents at the school, which is located just blocks from the transfer station.

The Slocumb route is flexible enough and has enough time to add the stop without creating problems, he said.

The change was unanimously approved.