BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Bus study releases recommendations for more hours, new routes

The final draft of a comprehensive bus study for the City of Minot suggests longer hours and new routes, including creating “core” routes for peak-hour traffic.

The completed study is similar to proposals presented to the public in the draft plan last September.

The final document that now goes to the Minot City Council calls for merging the existing midday route with the early morning and afternoon routes so that schools are served as part of an all-day transit network but aren’t the focus of the system. The existing system is in danger of violating Federal Transit Administration regulations that prohibit exclusive school transportation with federally funded equipment or facilities, the report stated.

In the short-term, the study proposes higher frequency service in the north-south corridor along Broadway and longer hours, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Buses currently start their routes at 6:55 a.m. on school days. Regular, midday service begins at 9 a.m., with the final run at 4:30 p.m.

The recommendation is for service to the middle and high schools to continue as part of an all-day network. Some tripper service could be provided during the early morning and afternoon periods to handle increased passenger loads. Routes would not be set up to serve elementary schools.

The study recommends that buses run every half hour during peak periods in the mornings and between 3 and 6 p.m. along new core routes that would run along Broadway. The north route would begin in the vicinity of Marketplace Foods on North Hill and include Minot State University and North Broadway. The south core route would run along South Broadway and around the area that includes Dakota Square Mall and the YMCA. Routes would be hourly during non-peak times.

Other “neighborhood loop” routes would run in each quadrant of the city at hourly intervals.

Fixed bus stops are recommended on the core routes and along major roadways.

The changes require no new vehicles. In the short-term, the annual operating cost would increase only 4 percent to accommodate the changes. The 2014 operating budget for transit in Minot is about $830,000.

The study calculates that nearly all existing midday riders would continue to receive similar service in the new plan, and between 74 and 86 percent of early morning and afternoon riders would be within a reasonable walk of a quarter mile or less to a bus location. The core routes would be within a quarter mile of about 50 percent of the jobs in Minot.

Bus rides on sample trips used in the study took about 20 percent less time than the existing midday system due to increased frequencies of service and more direct routing. Another feature of the plan is the ability to add to the routes as needs arise.

Options identified for possible implementation in the next three to five years, listed roughly in priority order, include:

– Extending weekday service by two hours.

– Adding Saturday service from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

– Starting the weekday service at 6 a.m.

– Increasing the midday frequency to a half hour on the core routes.

The first two priorities would increase annual operating costs by about 30 percent. Total additional annual operating cost is estimated at $475,600.

In the long-term, the study’s addition options are:

– New southwest route.

– New northwest route.

– Sunday service from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The total cost of these options is estimated at $590,400.

Some staffing changes are part of the costs. The study recommends going to electronic fare boxes this year, creating a potential need for more technology and operations staff. As service expands, additional administrative staff will be needed. Additional drivers may be needed in the mid-term.

With system expansion, the city should consider in the mid-term a new transit facility, the study report stated. A possible location would be at the southeast corner of Second Avenue Southwest and South Broadway. The facility would replace Town & Country Center as a transfer headquarters.

The study also recommends increased marketing, refreshed branding and a stand-alone website. Incorporating information into the online Google Transit service would provide passengers with real-time data on arrival and departure information.

Other suggestions include performance monitoring and expanded eligibility for the paratransit service offered through Souris Basin Transportation.

The final study report will be available on the project website until Feb 12 at (minotbusstudy.com) on the downloads page. After that date, reports and information on service changes will be posted on the city website at (www.minotnd.org). The study was conducted for the city by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting of Portland, Ore.