TTA giving 20 pennies for your thoughts

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, March 3rd:

Do you use public transportation very often? If not, what would you encourage you to use it more? Wireless Internet? More comfortable buses?

The Triangle Transit Authority is asking those questions in a creative web survey currently available on its site at ridetta.org. Folks are given twenty “pennies” to spend on a variety of possible upgrades to buses as the agency makes replacements in its fleet.

Some of the items are pretty cheap. One-penny upgrades include things like expanding the front-of-bus rack to accommodate three bikes rather than the current two or to install 10 bike lockers per year at various stops around the Triangle.

Others are so expensive they will use up almost your entire “budget.”

For instance, putting a rear window on the back of the bus would cost 16 pennies and implementing Sunday service would require all of your money.

I take the bus every day to work in Raleigh at the Sierra Club so I devoted my greatest expenditure of six pennies to fuel the buses using B20 biodiesel.

Seems like the right thing to do working in the environmental community. It's not the cleanest fuel TTA could use but it would still be a definite step in the right direction.

I gave three pennies to have wireless internet on the buses. I actually enjoy its current lack of presence to some extent because the two hours I spend on the commute each day are about the only main chunk of the day where I'm not attached to my e-mail.

On the other hand, I'd like to see a lot more Chapel Hillians who commute to Durham or Raleigh use public transportation, and for the busiest workers out there that extra period of connectivity could give folks the impetus to dump their cars and take the bus. There are also certain days where it would be nice to finish something up on the ride home so it's not waiting the next day.

Another four pennies went to providing headrests for the seat on the buses. It's kind of amusing to see all the people in suits napping on the way to work in the morning, and although I try to read books I must admit that the allure of sleep is often too much to pass up.

This expenditure would go a long way toward increasing the comfort of riders.

Those three items were my highest priorities but I still had seven pennies left. This sum wasn't large enough to buy any of the big ticket things but good enough to get a few other small enhancements.

Four of the pennies went to building five regular bus shelters. Nothing will get you back behind the driver's seat faster than getting soaked while waiting for a ride. Five is not a lot considering the scope of the TTA system but it's still a step in the right direction.

I decided to give the balance of my “funds” to installing 10 bike lockers per year at various stops. I'm not a cyclist myself, but I think a lot more folks who don't want to actually take their bike on the bus would be happy to ride it to the stop and know it was somewhere safe when they got home in the evening.

Some of the big ticket items I eschewed spending my funds on included real-time bus arrival information at 10 stops (the buses are pretty prompt!) and creating a 100 space park-and-ride lot. Some of the smaller ones I can live without were luggage racks and individual high-quality lights at seats.

The “Transit Design Game,” as TTA calls it, is one of the most engaging ways of soliciting citizen input I've ever seen a local agency use.

The information the TTA gleans from this should give it a much better sense of how to improve the riding experience for current customers as well as what sorts of amenities are likely to draw more people in the future.

A lot of the time the path to better citizen participation is not just to schedule a bunch more meetings folks have to go to, but to create a way for them to give feedback that is simple and even fun.

With this project TTA has set a good model that other local governments should look to find ways to emulate when soliciting opinions from the public about various issues.

Whether you're a public transportation user or not, go to ridetta.org and play the Transit Design Game, which will be available through this Friday. It's a great opportunity to have some fun while also giving important information to the folks who buy our buses.

Total votes: 104

Comments

Are there any options for increasing the number of routes or buses? Because the main reason I and other people I've talked to don't take TTA is because it would take their commute from 20 minutes to over an hour, because the bus goes from the SportsPlex to Chapel Hill (25 mins), where you switch for the Durham bus, which eventually (30 mins) gets to a stop where you can switch to DATA to get downtown. Faced with that rigamarole, I hop on I-85 toward Durham, head south on 147, and pull into the parking lot in downtown about 20 minutes after I left my driveway.

At the end of the survey they ask you if you have any other suggestions, so you could put in there that they should have direct service from Hillsborough to Durham. If there's enough demand for it that would be a great addition.

I divided mine between luggage racks, bike lockers, biodiesel, and something else, then added a comment to expand Hillsborough->Durham service, because this is just ridiculous. (I tried for an arrival before 8:30, which is when I start work, and there's nothing. The building isn't even unlocked until 8.)

I looked at their proposed rail transit stuff, and there's nothing from Orange county at ALL, only Durham/RTP/Wake. Le sigh.

C Diane- The Transit Design Game focused primarily on service quality issues rather than service quantity issues for 2 reasons.

1. TTA is going to place an order for new buses later this year, and we wanted to have as detailed an understanding as possible of what features in the new vehicles were most desired by the public. Once the new vehicles are ordered, they are likely to take 12-18 months to arrive.

2. At this time, TTA can do more within its existing budgets to improve service quality than we can service quantity. Our current fleet is almost completely deployed at rush hour, with standard industry allowances for having several buses in the shop for regular maintenance and spare buses on standby in case a bus breaks down.

That said, I can tell you that you are not the first person playing the Transit Design Game to suggest Hillsborough to Durham services, and we sift carefully through the free response comments to find suggestions like yours and catalog them.

On the rail transit front, the material on the TTA website is somewhat outdated at this point. (I'll mention that to the appropriate person today) Currently, TTA, the two Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and other stakeholders in the region have formed a Special Advisory Committee to recommend an updated plan for major transit investments in the Triangle region.

A committee of citizens was recently appointed by the Durham Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO, and I'm sure they would be glad to hear your thoughts and suggestions on rail development in Orange County. George Cianciolo, former chair of the Chapel Hill Transportation Board and regular poster here at OP.org, is one of the committee co-chairs.

Hope this helps!

Wow, thanks for the response, Patrick! I understand that increasing quantity is a larger investment and longer-term. Thanks for taking the time to go through the responses -- it shows you actually are listening.

Hillsborough is apparently a rapidly-growing community, and I hope future plans include us. And that Orange County doesn't go the way of southern Wake.

"A committee of citizens was recently appointed by the Durham Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO, and I'm sure they would be glad to hear your thoughts and suggestions on rail development in Orange County. George Cianciolo, former chair of the Chapel Hill Transportation Board and regular poster here at OP.org, is one of the committee co-chairs."

I'm one of the Wake County appointees on the three county Special Advisory Committee on Transit. First board I've served on since 1980. I think our first meeting is in the next few weeks.

-Gerry

I'd love to see TTA pick up the Robertsons schedule in the summer. Many people take that bus, even when school is not in session. I'd also love to see Carrboro - Durham service. Right now, even with the Robertsons bus, I can't figure out a way to get my son to daycare, then get a bus to downtown Chapel Hill, and then another bus to the Duke campus in anything close to a reasonable travel time.

(I realize this was about service quality, but with all the folks chiming in for additional routes, I thought I'd throw in my request.)

Just some additional follow-ups from yesterday.

1. TTA staff updated the Regional Rail section of the website with the latest information on the joint MPO effort to re-evaluate major transit investments in the region. Details can be found here.

2. We hope to make much of the Transit Design Game input available on the web, as we complete analysis and summary documents become available. With the high volume of participation we've experienced, and current preparations for TTA's budget for the next fiscal year, those documents are 2-4 weeks away at best, but stay tuned.

3. The Transit Design Game remains open until Friday, March 9th, at 5:00 PM. If you haven't participated yet, please join in!

Here is the membership list of the new 4 county transit planning committee, CAMPO are the Wake/Johnston appointments, DCHC-MPO are the Durham/Orange appointments. Bio sketches are from the staff memoranda.

CAMPO:

Bill Cavanaugh, (Co-Chair)
Former chairman, chief executive officer, and president, Progress Energy Chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Member of the National Academy of Engineering Board of visitors at the University Of North Carolina Kenan Flagler School Of Business Advisory Board of Tulane's School of Engineering Board of Directors for Research Triangle Foundation

Smedes York, (Co-Vice Chair)
Mayor, City of Raleigh, 1979-1983 Raleigh City Councilman, District E, 1977 to 1979. President of York Properties, Inc. Board Chairman York Simpson Underwood and McDonald-York Past chairman of the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry Past chairman N.C. State University Board of Trustees Board of Directors of the Research Triangle Foundation YMCA of the Triangle North Carolina Amateur Sports Trustee of the Urban Land Institute Founding Co-Chair of Regional Transportation Alliance

Tom Bradshaw
Mayor, City of Raleigh 1971-1973 Secretary of N.C. Dept. of Transportation, 1976 - 1979 Member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County Managing Director, Public Finance Dept., CitiGroup Global Markets, Inc.

Daniel Coleman
Attorney
Liveable Streets Partnership
Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association

Trish Dowty
Vice President of the Corporate Services Division, SAS Property, Procurement, and Logistics Management, CTI Data and Denelcor, Inc. Board of Directors, Cary Chamber of Commerce

Greg Flynn
NC Dept of Public Instruction School Planning NC Division of Forest Resources Architect

Mike Hendren
Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce.Board of Directors, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee

Jodi LaFreniere
Morrisville Chamber of Commerce President Member - Business Alliance Leadership Team Member Regional Transportation Alliance

Jennifer Lewis
Graduate Research Asst., Department of City and Regional Planning, UNC-CH Transportation Planning, Town of Chapel Hill Transportation Planner, The Louis Berger Group

Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair
Vice President at Large - North Carolina Electronics and Information Technologies Association (NCEITA) Regional Transportation Alliance - Vice chair of Regional Leadership Senior State Executive, VP Strategy & Implementation, Global IT Delivery - IBM

Mack Paul
Past President – Triangle Tomorrow Chief of Staff and legal counsel to Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker Associate General Counsel for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Warren Sawicki
Fuquay-Varina - Chamber of Commerce Retired Manufacturing Executive

Frank Timberlake
R.F. Timberlake and Company
President Carolinas/Virginia Chapter NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association)

Ed Willingham
2006-07 chair of the Regional Transportation Alliance Executive Vice President for First Citizens Bank's Triangle Region

Frank Price - President of F. L. Price & Associates Chair – Clayton Planning Board

Gerry Cohen – Director of Legislative Drafting, NC General Assembly Former Member-Chapel Hill Town Council Former Member-Chapel Hill Transportation Board

Tim Reed – Conservation Co-Chair of the Capital Group Sierra Club

Ex Officio Members:
Joe Bryan
Chair, Capital Area MPO TAC Commissioner, Wake County

Charles Meeker
Vice Chair, Capital Area MPO TAC Mayor, City of Raleigh

John Brantley
Director, RDU International Airport Commission member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County

Rick Weddle
President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation Vice Chair for Governmental Affairs - Regional Transportation Alliance Commission member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County

=========================

DCHC_MPO appointees (Durham/Orange)

Cassandra Atkinson, Ph.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration Director of Community Research and Technical Assistance Initiative Project Director, Transportation Management Bachelor's Degree Program North Carolina Central University (Chancellor Ammons' nominee) She has written several grants with the NC Department of Transportation and conducted research on transportation management needs.

George Cianciolo, Ph.D. (Co-Chair)
Member, Chapel Hill Planning Board Member, Chapel Hill Community Design Commission Former chair and member, Chapel Hill Transportation Board (six years) Former member, University of North Carolina Leadership Advisory Committee Associate Professor of Pathology, Duke University Medical Center

Carolyn Elfland
Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Services University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chancellor Moeser's nominee) The University's transportation planning, transportation demand management, and transit functions are within her area of responsibility. Member of the partnership committee that guides the Chapel Hill Transit system Represented the University on the 15-501 and 54 corridor studies

Robert ("Bo") Glenn
Chair, Durham Open Space and Trails Commission Member, Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission Member, Tarwheels Bicycle Club Served on the Durham Housing Authority for over 20 years Senior Budget Analyst, Office of the Governor, State Budget and Management Former Congressional Fellow for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Portland, Oregon) Master's in Regional Planning and Public Administration

Chris Harder Vice chair, Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) Board

Cal Horton
Former Town Manager (16 years, until 2006), Town of Chapel Hill As Manager, he has been a regional leader on transportation issues.

Sandy Ogburn
Member of the Board of Directors of several organizations in the Durham community, including the Durham Community Land Trust and the West End Community Center Former member of the Durham City Council, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO, and the Triangle Transit Authority Board of Trustees

Bernadette Pelissier, Ph.D.
Chair, Orange Chatham Group of the Sierra Club Member, Orange County Planning Board Member, Orange County Commission for the Environment Former member, University of North Carolina Leadership Advisory Committee Ph.D. in Sociology. Recently retired from the Federal government

Roger Perry
Chair, Triangle Tomorrow President, East West Partners (member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Transportation Alliance) Member, Board of Trustees, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Served on the Board of Visitors of UNC and Executive Committee of the Center for Real Estate at UNC's Kenan Flagler School Past chair, Triangle United Way

Mike Shiflett
Member, Durham Inter-Neighborhood Council, Northgate Park Member, Board of Directors for the Coordinating Council for Senior Citizens President and CEO, American Labor (member of the Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Transportation Alliance) Member, Durham Chamber of Commerce, Transportation Committee Served on US 40 HOV task force, Durham Comprehensive Plan, Travel Demand Ordinance Task Force Former member, Orange County's Economic Development District Transportation Task Force

Holly Reid President, Board of Trustees, Eno River Association Co-Founder, Walkable Hillsborough Coalition

Sam Nichols Jr.
Senior Vice President, First Citizens Bank Durham Chamber of Commerce, Transportation and Economic Development Committees

Ex-Officio Members:
TAC Chair, Alice Gordon (Orange County Commissioner)
TAC Vice Chair, Becky Heron (Durham Coounty Commissioner)

I take TTA to RDU from the hospital area periodically. It's not
very efficient with its stops at Southpoint or Woodcroft,
the bus change at
RTP, and convoluted routing to serve various office
parks near the airport. I don't know if there is sufficient ridership from CH to RDU to run buses there directly, but judging
from the number of airport taxis that I see on Raleigh
Road, maybe there would be if the TTA publicized it
highly.

When CH Transit went fare-free and ridership increased
dramatically, I started wondering: What fraction of
TTA revenue is actually from fares? Would it be possible
to offer free service from CH to RDU, even though, I'm
sure, the cab companies would scream bloody murder.
I'm not complaining about paying two bucks to ride to
RDU, for any other way is a whole lot more expensive,
rather I'm looking for ways to increase ridership enough
to justify direct buses.

I remember 15 years ago riding a very efficient shuttle bus
from the Carolina Inn to RDU several times.

I'd give my whole 20 pennies for an RTP version of
Portland, Oregon's Max system. But that's another song.

Finally, I go to the Duke Engineering school frequently
on the Robertson bus. It's awesome. I wish there were
a similar shuttle to NCSU. I started a course in EE there
3 semesters ago,
but after two classes, reluctantly had to abandon it,
because getting to State at 11am on MWF was just too
much overhead. I understand that there are library
shuttles that efficiently ferry books among the triangle university libraries, but they won't take passengers.

I think the missing piece from the TTA game is that some of us would be willing to pay the appropriate taxes to see TTA working with 30 or 40 pennies, or more. No amount of reapportioning inadequate funds is going to make up for the fact that there just aren't enough pennies to go around.

 

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