In Fall 2019, Rock Region METRO began internal work for its comprehensive operational analysis project, R.I.D.E. 2020, or Route Innovation, Development and Evaluation. The project was focused on the METRO fixed route and express route bus network. The public launch of the project took place the week of Jan. 20, 2020, with 15 meetings with various stakeholders – riders; the general public/potential riders; METRO staff members, including bus operators; the METRO Board of Directors; members of the R.I.D.E. Stakeholder Advisory Committee; elected officials; neighborhood association presidents; major employers and community leaders.
Stakeholder Advisory Committee
Goals and Project Scope
Project Scope and Timeline
Table of ContentsI. Introduction
II. Project Overview
02. Consulting Team
03. Stakeholder Advisory Committee
04. Goals and Project Scope
05. Project Scope and Timeline
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What Is R.I.D.E. 2020?
Reimagining Public Transit Service in Central Arkansas
R.I.D.E. 2020, or Route Innovation, Development and Evaluation, was the name for METRO’s 2019-2020 comprehensive operational analysis project to see how the public transit agency can better serve our community’s needs and gain ridership. This analysis re-imagined the fixed route network – which had not undergone a major change in 33 years at the time of the project’s launch. This involved:
• Identifying short- and long-range transit operational plans and capital finance plans;
• Determining effective means of leveraging funding to increase ridership and revenue while addressing the transportation needs of the region;
• Conducting data-driven evaluation of existing service and performance, market conditions, consumer expectations, and future financial opportunities and transit needs (including managing a comprehensive transit poll within Pulaski County and Conway);
• Developing creative, effective, and achievable recommendations to address community mobility needs, grow ridership and position METRO for long-term financial sustainability.
Transportation Management & Design, Inc. is a comprehensive transit consulting firm providing innovative and achievable solutions to transit agencies since 1988. The TMD team helps systems optimize resources to operate more efficiently and grow ridership cost-effectively, ensuring ongoing financial sustainability. The firm’s practice reflects broad industry expertise in transit system redevelopment; service evaluation, planning and design; operations optimization; financial modeling; facility planning; and GIS mapping and visual communications.
Charles Frazier, former METRO chief executive officer; Melissa Sather and Andrew Pease lead neighborhood associations presidents in a R.I.D.E. 2020 project kickoff presentation.
The TMD R.I.D.E. 2020 project leads included Melissa Sather, project manager, and Andrew Pease, AICP, deputy project manager and senior planner, as well as Russ Chisholm, TMD founder and president. As an experienced team of former transit management professionals, the TMD team understands what it takes to deliver reliable, efficient and productive transit service to customers on a daily basis.
The R.I.D.E. 2020 Stakeholder Advisory Committee is a diverse group of community leaders who represent constituents and organizations with mobility needs. Throughout the project process, committee members learned from METRO’s consulting team, identified and communicated community mobility needs and concerns, synthesized public input, provided feedback on plan recommendations and, ultimately, served as a public resource on how the final transit plan network aids the central Arkansas community.
R.I.D.E. 2020 Stakeholder Advisory Committee Members
Becky Adams, Director, Partnership and Policy Support, Arkansas Department of Health
Leta Anthony, Chairwoman, Metropolitan Housing Alliance
Ron Bara, Ward 6 Representative, Age-Friendly Little Rock Commission
Jim Billings, Former Director of Communications, City of North Little Rock
Cindy Gillespie, Secretary, Arkansas Department of Human Services
The Honorable Judge Barry Hyde, Pulaski County
Christina Clark, Vice Chancellor for Institutional Support Services and Chief Operating Officer, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Ellon Cockrill, Secretary, Rotary Club of Little Rock
Nate Coulter, Executive Director, Central Arkansas Library System
Jim Dailey, Former Tourism Director, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Former Mayor, City of Little Rock
Josh Davenport, Vice Chairman, Argenta Downtown Council
Cathy Dickinson, Chief Human Resources Officer, Baptist Health
Dr. Margaret Ellibee, Chancellor, UA – Pulaski Technical College
The Honorable Denise Ennett, State Representative, District 36
Jill Floyd, Director of Community Outreach, CDI Contractors
Mary Henthorn, Member, Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods
Raymond Hunter, Community Employment Coordinator, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System
Hank Kelley, Member, Little Rock Regional Chamber Fifty for the Future
Miguel Lopez, Member, Southwest Little Rock Business Alliance
Cedric Martin, Director of Human Resources, Welspun
Greg Nation, Public Transportation Administrator, Arkansas Department of Transportation
Wyck Nisbet, Treasurer, Downtown Little Rock Partnership
Mike Poore, Superintendent, Little Rock School District
Kristine Puckett, Deputy Tourism Director, Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Hunter Sadler, District Representative, Office of Representative French Hill (AR02)
Joe Stanley, Board Member, studioMAIN
Lou Tobian, Former Arkansas Director of Outreach and Education, AARP
Tab Townsell, Executive Director, Metroplan
Steve Varady, Member, Partners for Inclusive Communities
Alison Williams, Chief of Staff, Office of Governor Asa Hutchinson
Michelle Wright, Chief of Social Work Services, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System
The METRO Board of Directors is the 12-member board of Pulaski County residents who govern METRO. Although the Board was actively engaged in the R.I.D.E. 2020 project and gave METRO input alongside riders, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, elected officials, employers and other community stakeholders, the final R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan recommendation came from the TMD consulting team leads. Any service changes that were recommended in the final R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan were slated to go into effect under a new interlocal agreement, with a new local jurisdiction funding contribution formula. Any related service changes were slated to be implemented in a separate, annual service enhancements process, which is dependent on METRO’s global COVID-19 pandemic service response and the successful achievement of hiring goals for bus operators and microtransit drivers.
R.I.D.E. 2020 Does Address
R.I.D.E. 2020 was focused on the METRO fixed route and express route bus network, as well as the relatively new METRO Connect on-demand microtransit service, which permanently replaced Route 9 John Barrow Road and replaced Route 21 Riverdale as part of an initial 1-year pilot project.
The project included a review of recommendations from previous planning work for METRO, METRO’s current transfer pass fare policy and, most importantly, a comprehensive review of the local jurisdiction funding contribution formula.
The project also produced a recommended funding strategy for potential new local jurisdictions funding partners, bringing a regional focus to the plan. The strategy has allowed METRO to provide clear funding costs to expand transit service to potentially interested areas such as Benton, Bryant, Saline County, Cabot, Lonoke County, Conway and Faulkner County. This has allowed jurisdictions to better determine whether they have the resources needed to implement transit in their areas.
R.I.D.E. 2020 Does NOT Address
Although these are important aspects of transit service, the R.I.D.E. 2020 project did not focus on streetcar or paratransit service, safety and security plans, or stop amenities, including shelter and bench placement and other transit amenities. Once the final R.I.D.E. 2020 new interlocal agreement and new local funding structure had been created and once a resulting new transit network plan was recommended, METRO planned to engage in a separate annual service enhancements process to implement any related route changes. This process has been delayed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Once the annual service enhancements are implemented, an assessment of existing shelter, bench and other stop amenities will follow.
In Fall 2019, Rock Region METRO began internal work for its comprehensive operational analysis project, R.I.D.E. 2020, or Route Innovation, Development and Evaluation. Fall 2019 work included finalizing and implementing a non-rider/voter poll within Pulaski County.
The public launch of the project took place the week of Jan. 20, 2020, with 15 meetings with various stakeholders – riders, the general public/potential riders, METRO staff members, including bus operators, the METRO Board of Directors, members of the R.I.D.E. Stakeholder Advisory Committee, elected officials, neighborhood association presidents, major employers and community leaders.
The METRO Board of Directors and Stakeholder Advisory Committee discussed the study’s market overview of central Arkansas, possible funding contribution formula changes and transit network design principles in a March 2020 visit with the TMD consulting team and METRO staff.
In July 2020, METRO engaged in public outreach to share a draft R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan and collect feedback from riders and non-riders/potential riders on the plan.
The TMD consulting team presented a final R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan in July 2020. This step concluded the TMD consulting team’s work.
Steps after the final plan was recommended included METRO leading the creation of a new local jurisdiction funding contribution formula and, after that, engaging in a separate annual service enhancements process to implement service changes related to the final R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan.
The R.I.D.E. 2020 project concluded just as METRO began finalizing its FY 2021 annual operating budget. The initial, separate annual service enhancements process related to the final R.I.D.E. 2020 transit network plan is taking place in two phases. The first phase includes launching expanded and new microtransit zones in Little Rock and North Little Rock. These were launched Monday, June 20, 2022. The second phase is dependent on the recruitment, hiring and training of additional fixed route bus operators and does not have a launch date but is slated to occur in 2023, pending METRO’s COVID-19 response, with possible adjustments needed as the agency navigates the global pandemic.