New express route popular
By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 28, 2009 1:46 PM
Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority office receptionist Loleitha Council sits in a wheelchair for Authority Director Alan Stubbs to demonstrate how the automatic ramp on a GATEWAY bus works. The bus was put into service Dec. 14 with the launch of the new express bus route. Two more of the buses have been ordered and will be paid for with federal stimulus funding.
The new GATEWAY Express bus route that launched Dec. 14 and the large new bus being used to run it have received a good response from passengers despite some early complications, said Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority Director Alan Stubbs.
"They (riders) all love the bus and they want to know when we will get more," Stubbs said. "The fact that classes are not in session (at Wayne Community College) probably has affected ridership. Once the students at the college realize it and find out about the student rates I expect there will be more ridership."
Stubbs said he has spoken to college officials about the new route and rates and has sent an e-mail to county school officials, too.
The recent spate of bad weather and the fact that it will take people a while to learn about the new route and rates have affected ridership, he said. Stubbs said exact ridership numbers would be available after the first of the year.
The new student rates are 50 cents for a one-way ticket and $1 for an all-day pass.
"I think it (the route) eventually will take off real good," he said.
Stubbs said he plans to create a grid to demonstrate to the public how taking the express route is quicker.
The new 35-foot, low-floor bus holds 32 people seated and as many as 22 people standing. It also can accommodate a wheelchair and 29 people or two wheelchairs and 25 people.
"It will take a lot of people," Stubbs said. "There are two doors on the side. People can exit the back door while others come in the front."
Currently, GATEWAY's buses use a fold-out wheelchair ramp.
"The driver (on the old buses) has to get out, go around, open the door and lower the wheelchair ramp down," Stubbs said. "Then they have to let the person get on the ramp, go up and roll inside. He has to go inside, strap them (wheelchair) down. He has to go back out, fold the wheelchair ramp back up, close the doors, go back around and get in the bus.
"Where here now, they go straight up the (automatic) ramp into the bus. They turn around into the wheelchair area. There are four hooks up which are automatically tightened up (to secure the wheelchair)."
The front of the bus also has a bicycle rack that will hold two bikes.
"One of our stops will be at the bicycle trail at New Hope Road and Cuyler Best Road," Stubbs said. "People can ride their bikes to that point, then hop on the bus and when they get to their destination, take their bikes off.
"Passengers will be required to put on and take off their own bicycles. It is very simple to do -- just put them up there and pull a rod out and place it over the wheel. We will give demonstrations on how to use them."
The inside of the bus has cameras for security.
LED signs on the bus will be flashing its destination.
"My thought is to put GATEWAY Express, Ash Street, downtown, John Street, Berkeley, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base main gate, Wayne Community College (on the sign) that way people can see where it is going," Stubbs said. "It won't be coordinated to where it is, but constantly running.
"We have not had stops on Ash Street in the past and we are going to be adding a couple of stops when it leaves here (transfer station) stopping at the corner of Jefferson and Ash, somewhere near the library and a stop at the Health Department. We will still have the old stop at the Health Department, too. We will have a stop on John Street close to the Jeffreys Building so you can walk one block basically to the courthouse or City Hall. There will be another around Chestnut where you can walk to the courthouse or police station."
Part of the new route was designed with senior citizens in mind.
"We have had concerns in the past that elderly people who live on Berkeley Boulevard opposite from the mall who have said there was not a crosswalk for them to walk so they could get to the mall where they can catch a bus," Stubbs said. "Now we will have two stops on that side of Berkeley Boulevard -- one somewhere around the areas of Graves Street at KFC and another at Cashwell Drive somewhere around Cookout where people could get on the bus on that side of Berkeley Boulevard without having to cross the street."
The bus will go into the Berkeley Mall parking lot between Firestone and J.C. Penney.
"We will have a new stop, I am not sure where we will have it, and then on to Wal-Mart where it will stop on Spence Avenue," he said.
The new bus, which sports patriotic designs, cost $328,000. The city of Goldsboro's share was $29,000.
Two more have been ordered and should arrive by next October. They will be identical to the new bus, but with a new type engine, and will cost $358,000 each. They will be paid for with federal stimulus funds.