As funding from state and federal agencies continues to be more difficult to secure, local transit systems have found a variety of new partners that not only help pay for new hours of service, but can also provide opportunities for transit agencies to restructure service in parts of the community. These partnerships can also result in improving the transit agency’s image and relevance in a community, and improved quality of service.
There are many examples of public sector partners, one being the Presidio military training facility in Monterey and its agreement for transit service with the Monterey-Salinas Transit agency (MTS) in California. This service is intended to meet the transportation needs of students, faculty, and staff of the Presidio to commute to work from the communities on the Monterey Peninsula, Salinas, and San Jose on weekdays. The service, which includes 12 new or redesigned commuter routes, is fully integrated with existing bus service, operates on fixed schedules, and utilizes established bus stops. The military base was becoming overwhelmed with private vehicles, and with security concerns becoming more prominent, the Presidio leaders wanted to find transportation alternatives for those who worked at the base.
While the transit service funded through the agreement is intended to primarily address the needs of the personnel on the military training base, it is open to the public as well. The Presidio pays the full hourly costs associated with this service which amounts to over $1.5 million annually. The new military commuter services are fully paid for by the Federal Transit Benefit /Transportation Incentive Program established by Executive Order 13150 through the Department of Transportation which is being used by approximately 1,000 military base personnel.
Florida's Broward County Transit (BCT) has reached agreements with 20 of the 30 cities in the county. That resulted in BCT being able to minimize meandering routes that serve condominiums and other facilities that are off the transit system’s grid network. BCT leases (for $1 a year) minibuses to the cities and provides technical assistance in terms of scheduling, while the cities operate the minibuses with their own personnel or through contracts that the cities manage. This has allowed BCT routes to stay on the major roads, providing faster and more direct service throughout the county that helps to build ridership. The cities provide more customized services in their communities that allow people to go to the front door of shopping centers or condominiums.
BCT also provides approximately half the operating cost for the city circulators, which ends up being 75% less than the amount it would cost BCT to provide the service itself. All city circulators are required to connect with BCT routes at the nearest transfer center. Hence, the city circulators also serve as feeders to, and distributors from, the county system, thereby increasing mobility and transit ridership and minimizing the first mile-last mile challenge many transit passengers face. The city circulators also help reduce the cost of paratransit service since the circulators can often accommodate the needs of people with disabilities.
The Central Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCCTA) established the Community Connection program that has allowed more trips to be made throughout the county at a very low cost due to their partnerships with other programs that use volunteers and receive grants and provide additional trips due to CCCTA’s assistance with vehicles and training. Between increasing productivity and spreading the load, many more trips can be accommodated at a very modest cost. Not only has this program expanded options for seniors with service tailored expressly for their individual needs, but capacity has been freed up on the CCCTA’s paratransit service (LINK) to serve additional trips that were formerly taken by those now using a partner’s “Community Connection” van. Instead of ridership on LINK growing at a rate of over 3% per year, ridership on LINK stabilized and actually fell in 2007 nearly 1.5% over what it was the previous fiscal year. This allowed 10% more same-day trips to be accommodated, and LINK is able to focus on serving those very frail persons for which it was designed, with no service denials and within budget. In FY 2008, ridership on LINK grew by 4.6%, but productivity increased from 1.94 to 2 passengers per hour. Nearly 23% more same-day trips were provided as well.
Transit agencies have also partnered with downtown development authorities, transportation management associations, and convention centers, among other public partners. In addition they have partnered with private sector entities such as shopping malls, business parks, museums, hotels, major employers, associations of businesses, hospitals, and casinos that pay partially or fully for new service. I look forward to sharing information on that in a future posting.
Joel Volinski, METRO Magazine's newest contributing blogger, is the director of the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida where he manages the largest university-based transit research program in the country. He is the author of the reports entitled “Lessons Learned in Transit Efficiencies, Revenue Generation, and Cost Reductions” as well as the upcoming TCRP report “Maintaining Transit Effectiveness Under Tight Fiscal Constraints.” In upcoming blogs, Joel will discuss ways transit systems are becoming more efficient.
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