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Extending service hours, routes among JeffTran recommendations

Extending service hours, routes among JeffTran recommendations

October 18th, 2017 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

Cynthia Quetsch, left, observes the inside of an electric-powered bus Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017 following a public meeting at the John G. Municipal Building to discuss improvements to the Jefferson City transit system.

Photo by Shelby Kardell /News Tribune.

A Saturday and weekday evening service, along with modifications to five of the six JeffTran fixed routes were some of the recommendations presented at a Tuesday public transit meeting.

Extended services

Contractor Lochmueller Group suggested Jefferson City implement a Saturday service that runs 8 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. and includes High Street West, Business 50 East, Missouri Boulevard and Capital Mall routes. The report states these routes were selected because they have the highest amount of passengers along with geographical coverage of the city.

These same routes were suggested for extended weekday evening services with the buses making three additional trips, allowing for the last trip to leave the Miller Street transit center at 7:20 p.m.

According to the Existing Conditions Report, the first part of the JeffTran system-wide assessment, online survey respondents were more favorable to evening and Saturday services on the High Street East route compared to the Business 50 East route. Lochmueller Group said while both routes serve the east side of the city, Business 50 East's performance measures were at least 70 percent better than High Street East's measures.

The report states 57 percent of survey respondents wanted a Saturday daytime and weekday evening services.

According to the final report, the net cost would increase by $152,000 to operate the four routes on Saturday. It would increase by $145,000 for weekday evening services.

Jefferson City resident Terrie Evans said while she liked the majority of the recommendations, she wished all buses could run on Saturdays. She said some of her friends struggle to work on the weekends because buses do not run and taxis are too expensive.

If more funding comes available, Lochmueller Group also recommended including services to Holts Summit and an Algoa Shuttle that would include stops at Walmart East and Scholastic.

Changed routes

While Lochmueller Group recommended services extensions, it also suggested modifying the High Street East, Business 50 East, Missouri Boulevard, Capital Mall and Southwest routes to provide bi-direction travel and eliminate low-traveled route segments.

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The final report recommends the city eliminate a one-way service on East McCarty Street between Cherokee Drive and Landwehr Hills Road along the Business 50 East route. Instead, the route could be replaced with a two-way, on-call route on St. Louis Road.

The recommendation for Missouri Boulevard route, which stops at Menards, Walmart and Sam's Club, is to remove service between Kansas and Broadway. The report also suggests a two-way service on Broadway, Linden, Myrtle and Kansas.

Options for the Capital Mall route include removing one-way services along areas on Missouri 179 South, Missouri Boulevard, Stoneridge Parkway, Georgetown Road, Country Club Drive and Fairgrounds Road; the bus would turn around near Gerbes on Truman Parkway to provide bi-direction travel.

The second Capital Mall route option suggested the bus turn around near the Community Health Center and eliminate services on Georgetown Road, Country Club Drive and Fairgrounds Road. The current on-call route to St. Mary's Boulevard would also be a permanent portion of the route.

The report suggested two options for the High Street East route. The first option would remove the one-way service between Gerbes and Christy Drive near the YMCA but add a two-way service on Christy Drive. The second option would remove the services east of Jefferson Street but provide different two-way services instead.

Two suggestions for the Southwest route both would eliminate portions on Southwest and St. Mary's boulevards and U.S. 54. One option suggested adding a two-way service where the bus would turn around near Schnucks on Missouri Boulevard and provide bi-direction travel. The other included adding a one-way trip to Walmart with bi-direction travel on Southwest Boulevard.

The High Street West route would not change.

Michael Grovak, chief of transit planning and economics associate at Lochmueller Group, said one of the main components in modifying the routes was to eliminate one-way loops which often force riders to go out of their way when traveling, leading to low ridership and longer travel times.

The annual operating cost increase for each route change varied.

Handi-Wheels recertification

About 40 percent of JeffTran's total operating expenses go toward Handi-Wheels, significantly higher compared to the five peer systems, which averaged about 23 percent of their operating budgets on Americans with Disabilities Act services.

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The peer systems were located in Manhattan, Kansas; Mankato, Minnesota; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Carson City, Nevada; and Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

To help decrease the percentage going toward Handi-Wheels, Lochmueller Group suggested the city recertify Handi-Wheels riders' eligibilities and use the operating cost savings to expand fixed-route services.

"We recognize that most trips made on Handi-Wheels are probably made by riders who satisfy the eligibility requirements under the ADA," the report states. "It also is clear that JeffTran's historically liberal eligibility polices have resulted in significant amounts of service provide to those who could use fixed route service."

In 2016, Handi-Wheels averaged about 200 riders per day, and the report states recertification could reduce that number by 20-30 percent.

Lochmueller Group also suggested ADA-eligible riders who decide to use fixed-route services instead of Handi-Wheels receive free fares. It said offering this free-fare ride could also reduce Handi-Wheels ridership by 20 percent.

Increased fares

To help fund some of these recommendations, Lochmueller Group suggested the city increase the fare by 25 cents. Currently, the fare is $1, and the senior and disability fare is 50 cents.

The report recommended setting the Handi-Wheels fare at $2.50; it currently costs $2.

About 82 percent of online survey respondents said they would pay higher fares for extended services, but 40 percent of respondents said they did not want the fare to increase by a quarter.

An issue JeffTran experiences is static funding, according to the report, in which the service relies mostly on federal and local funds. The bus fares are its third highest revenue source.

Between the recommendations, Lochmueller Group estimated ridership and fare revenue would increase. However, operating costs would increase significantly, too.

The draft final report will be finalized by the end of this month. Public Works Department Directer Matt Morasch said after the report is finalized, city staff will discuss the recommendations and eventually bring recommendations to the Jefferson City Council.