“We did not get the quarter-penny sales tax to fund public transit that would have funded the MOVE Central Arkansas bus service improvement plan, which included major system improvements. We continue to explore how we can implement low- or no-cost improvements aligned with the MOVE Central Arkansas plan and make minor improvements within the constraints of our current funding structure,” said Becca Green, METRO director of public engagement. “We won’t be able to make the major changes our riders continue to request, such as system-wide extended operating hours and adding service miles that deviate farther out from existing routes. The good news is that we continue to educate our community about the service we have and make minor improvements we hope riders will appreciate, without the benefit of a dedicated source of funding.”
- 01. Overview
- 02. The Process
- 03. 2018 ASE Public Information Meeting Dates and Times
The METRO staff began its annual service review in April. The process of moving service miles to different places within the system involves a lot of math: The interlocal agreement that created the agency in 1986 dictates that any service miles within the system must stay within the jurisdiction that funds them. For example, service miles cannot be added in the City of Little Rock without removing service miles from another Little Rock location. In other words, the agency cannot add service miles to one jurisdiction by removing them from another jurisdiction. (Moving service miles from one jurisdiction to another could be possible with a corresponding establishment of a dedicated public transit funding source, which is outside of the agency’s control.)
Public comments are taken into consideration at the review’s onset and continue to influence the proposals. Technology tools also play a role: METRO uses transit planning software to make more precise calculations to create proposed route changes, taking into account jurisdiction boundaries, which change on an irregular basis. Automated passenger counters provide accurate data as to how many riders are boarding and alighting at each bus stop in the 1,600-stop system. Field work performed by METRO staff members yields information on trip generators (places to which riders travel), rider behavior patterns (such as when riders are traveling and why: work and school commutes, travel to health appointments, grocery stores, etc.) and factors that could affect proposed route schedule times (at-grade railroad crossings, school car rider lines, etc.).
“The bottom line is that, through hard work and a lot of careful, intensive planning, we are improving service for passengers by offering meaningful connections to destinations and refining schedules, all without the benefit of any additional funding,” Green said. “We continue to be extremely cost-efficient as we operate within the constraints of our current funding structure.”
During June and July 2018, METRO staff are prepping public information materials for each proposed change.
“We are excited to share this information,” said Green. “It gives our community a more accurate snapshot of public transit use and potential for our area. I think it demonstrates the dedication our board and staff bring to serving our community by constantly seeking ways to improve the system.”
Once the public information meetings pass, the agency will host a 30-day public comment period July 31-Aug. 29, 2018, followed by a meeting of the METRO Board of Directors, who are slated to vote on the proposed changes at late August or early September board meeting. Any approved changes will be implemented in late October. METRO staff members will work on updating affected route schedules (some routes without a route pattern change will still undergo a schedule change related to changes made on routes that will undergo a route pattern change), the bus service map, bus stop sign changes and other signage updates pending board approval of the proposed changes. All new information will be coordinated for a late October rollout, as the current system will be in place until the changes are implemented.
Rock Region METRO is hosting two public meetings in July 2018 to present annual service enhancement information to interested persons for two routes in North Little Rock and two routes in Little Rock:
Monday, July 30, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Central Arkansas Library System Main Branch, Darragh Center Auditorium, 100 S. Rock St., Little Rock
Tuesday, July 31, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., North Little Rock City Hall, 300 Main St., North Little Rock