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City polling bus route options
Second transit survey continues till March 24
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Georgia Southern students catch a bus on Georgia Avenue on campus Friday. Statesboro is currently seeking input as part of a public transit feasibility study. The university's transit system, Southern Express, serves primarily students on or near the Statesboro campus. (SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

 After a preliminary survey with more than 500 responses signaled strong interest in having public transit in Statesboro, the city and study consultants have progressed to giving the public several options for bus routes.

Concept maps A, B and C were displayed on poster panels during Thursday evening’s open house hosted by city officials and Connetics Transportation Group, or CTG, in the Honey Bowen Building. Only 21 Statesboro-area residents signed in during the two hours. But 80 percent of the 506 responses to the preliminary survey last fall expressed a belief that public transit is needed in Statesboro, reported Dan Nelson, a CTG senior planner and the consulting firm’s project manager for this study.

He acknowledged that self-selection affects this kind of polling, since respondents had to be interested enough to go to the survey online and answer it.

“That’s a good point,” Nelson said. “We’ve always got to keep that in mind. You know there are limitations of the survey, it wasn’t a scientific survey, but you know the fact that 500 people were interested enough to take the survey, that says something in and of itself, and we feel like the response was pretty overwhelming.”

That was the first survey.

 

Survey continues

The second survey, which lets respondents rank suggested routes by how useful each would be to them and people they know, will remain open online through March 24. It can be found through the transit study link at the top of the “Notices” column on the city’s homepage, www.statesboroga.gov.

This 21-question survey also asks people how often they would use the service and at what times of day. Giving options from 50 cents to $3, it asks what one-way fare, if any, you would be willing to pay to ride a regular route, and whether you would accept a tax increase to support the service.

Demographic questions ask for age and household income, within brackets, and whether the respondent is a Statesboro resident or a college student. There is a question about whether you have access to a vehicle for personal use.

The survey also gauges interest in “flex route” service, which Nelson explained allows for some special, requested stops off the main route.

As of Friday morning, 398 responses had been received to this ongoing survey, Nelson said in an email.


To take the survey, click here.

Networks vs. loop

Attendees at Thursday’s event were also asked to rank the routes within each concept map, using colored adhesive dots numbered 1-4, beginning with “1” for the route they would most likely use.

Two of the three route concept maps used for the open house emphasized cross-town, mostly linear routes, with four such routes on each map. Different from those two maps, the other concept map featured a loop route.

“Really what we’re trying to understand is, are people more interested in a loop route, something that’s simple, something that you get on and it goes in one direction ... whereas on the last two concepts we have a network of routes,” Nelson said.

Both strategies have tradeoffs, he observed. A loop route is a fairly simple way to cover a large area, but riders may have to go the long way round depending on where they are going. The direct-route networks “provide a good amount of connectivity,” he said, but these require exchanges – getting off one bus and onto another – for destinations not in the direct line.

CTG developed the route options with input from a local steering committee with about 12 members.

One thing that has not been specified at this point is the type of vehicle. But the discussion has been about kinds of buses, with the “trolleys” mentioned last year being a kind of small bus.

 

Costs undetermined

Also not spelled out yet are the costs of operating the service in relation to funding and fares. That is where having multiple route options could be important, Nelson suggested.

“Obviously, what we’re looking at is visionary; it’s not cost-constrained at this point,” he said Thursday. “What we’re trying to get out of the public through the survey and tonight is what are our priorities, and that’s why we’re asking people to rank the individual routes, so if the city can only afford one of these routes or even a piece of one of these routes, what would we want to start with?”

With the first survey, consultants also asked Statesboro people to rank goals for a public transit service, and “equity” came out on top, ahead of economic development, mobility and sustainability, in that order. Here “equity” means  access and opportunity for people without their own transportation, Nelson said.

Karen and Tom Lambie, Statesboro residents since 1968 and now retired, attended the open house. Asked about their interest, both told of driving people places, including elderly people seen walking home with shopping bags and a friend who needed to keep a job.

“I think it would help not just disadvantaged people,” said Tom Lambie. “It’s going to help businesses because they can get employees there on a regular basis.”

 

Student interest

Georgia Southern University seniors Justin Bowles, 21, and Tori Pierce, 24, came to follow Statesboro’s public transit discussion for campus media. They noted that students made transit a major topic during Mayor Jonathan McCollar’s recent on-campus town hall meeting.

The university has its own bus system, but it mostly transports students between places they live and places on campus. Students would be especially interested in a city route than ran from the GS campus to the Statesboro Mall and the Walmart Supercenter and back, these classmates suggested. At least one route on each of the concept maps makes these connections also includes the hospital area.

On the city’s staff, civil engineer Kiara Ahmed is project manager for the transit study. She can be emailed at kiara.ahmed@statesboroga.gov or phoned at (912) 764-0655 with questions about the study.

“The plan is to wrap up the study around the end of April,” Ahmed said.


Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.