I’ve taken the bus in many cities in the U.S. and Europe, but before yesterday I had only taken the bus twice in my eight years in Springfield — both times to travel downtown when the roads were too icy to ride my bicycle. That wasn’t enough experience to form an impression of the system.
Yesterday, I rode the bus around Springfield from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to accomplish two things: 1) fulfill an assignment for the urban geography class I’m taking (last class in my certificate program in urban planning), and 2) to begin gathering some data so I can participate fully in the Let’s Go Smart campaign and the STAR Team’s promoting of the bus system (mentioned here).
I’m planning to do a multimedia treatment for my class assignment, and I’ll publish the result here by 9 October (when it is due). But I’d like to process a few thoughts now.
I came away from my hours on the bus yesterday encouraged about the future of bus transportation in Springfield because, by my analysis, what we need to do to make the system better will also make our urban environment better. Actually, it’s not the system that needs improving so much as the stuff supporting the system. Here’s the list of things I would do to promote and improve the bus system:
- More sheltered, paved stops. The sheltered stops are mostly concentrated in commercial areas. In some of the poor neighborhoods in town — along roads with no sidewalks or curbs — the stops are just poles stuck in ditches. More stops need, at a minimum, a paved waiting area and a bench. Further, there needs to be more sidewalk connections to stops.
- Add bicycle parking to stops. I was amazed how many people use the front racks on the bus. I wonder how many more might use the bus if they could park their bicycles at stops. Not everyone lives within an easy walk of a stop, but it’s for sure that many more people live within an easy bicycle ride.
- Continue to encourage downtown revitalization — especially residential in-fill development. The central hub bus system makes sense if the central location is both a business and residential destination.
- Every ticket should include one transfer at the regular ticket price, and the transfer should be good for more than 90 minutes.
- Sheltered stops should include system maps.
- Buses should have system maps and scrolling street names. Some drivers are good about calling the streets. Others mumble. And one driver I encountered yesterday didn’t make a peep expect to jawbone with passengers while driving.
- Passengers should be able to purchase bus passes at a machine at the central transfer station.
I’ll discuss these more extensively in my presentation Stay tuned…
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