Hi all, I've been asked to publish the below letter on TABI. it concerns one rider's objections to the nova 2010 plan, which will be voted upon by the city commission at tomorrow's meeting: My name is John Plescow and I urge the City Commission to vote no on the Nova2010 plan on March 24th. More work remains to be done on this plan before it is ready for an approval vote. It still hasn't been proven to the satisfaction of the current riders that the actual trip time will be less. Time riding the bus may be shorter but transit time also includes such factors as the time it takes to reach more distant stops, waiting at transfer points for the next bus, actually riding the bus, and then walking greater distances to reach the final destination point. Bus riders will therefore be forced to spend additional time walking and changing buses on streets that are more than twice as dangerous as the national average as described by the "Dangerous by Design" study. Before a vote is taken, more listening sessions are needed to discuss the proposed weekend, night and Sunday routes. Riders can't evaluate the full impact of the plan without knowing the stops and schedules/timetables. Otherwise Nova2010 is still an unknown entity. More detailed planning for stop placement and schedules/timetables is needed before a vote is taken and not after the fact. Early February was not long enough for riders to become aware of the planned routes for weekend and night/Sunday service. Email, Facebook and Twitter don't cover everyone. Face-to-face discussion and feedback are needed. Most riders haven't been shown this part of the plan and had a chance for input. The proposed maximum wait times of 20 minutes are measurably longer than the current wait times of less than five minutes to change buses at C.K. Steele Plaza. Use of the hotline doesn't allow for group discussion about concerns. Removing services from previously served areas hinders access for current riders. It is easy to say that to increase transit speed, some of the current riders will have to travel further to reach a bus stop. And this may fall within current transit guidelines. But StarMetro has always been a system that went beyond just what was required and took into consideration factors such as the weather in Tallahassee and the abilities of the riders. The heat here in the summer can be dangerous. In some cases, making people travel longer distances to stops could be dangerous as well. This is especially true if they have problems determining the arrival time of the next bus and have to wait longer at the stop. People here have planned where they live, work, shop and obtain medical care based on the current StarMetro routes and to decrease service would be very detrimental. Coverage shouldn't be expanded to new areas at the expense of currently served areas. Two example of locations losing service under Nova2010 are High Road/Ocala Street between Tennessee and Tharpe Street and Miccosukee Hills. These areas will experience a decrease in service under Nova2010. The Jackson Bluff area of town will face a disproportionate number of two transfer trips under Nova2010. There are problems with connections in the Southwestern part of Tallahassee where two transfers are required on the Saturday, night/Sunday routes to reach any area north of Tennessee Street. These connectivity problems are not just a concept but a real problem for bus riders as they will find it harder to reach destinations that are currently easy to reach. The Saturday and night/Sunday connectivity along the north-south axis between central and west parts of the city is missing. This is present on the Gulf Route for the central and east parts of the city. The Forest route does this during the week but doesn't exist to do this on weekends when two transfers are therefore required to obtain this north-south axis connection. This is equally true of the night/Sunday N-4 route as well. StarMetro has always been a very dependable system as to when the routes have run. Riders could depend on making their appointments for work, school and medical care because they knew the times the buses should arrive. While it may be that passengers often are going through the downtown to reach other places, this isn't a true reflection of the value of a central transfer point or of the Plaza. The Plaza enables people to make trips with only one secure transfer. While buses that run on independent routes may appear to reduce travel time, this is just an illusion. Instead of the responsibility for getting riders to a location on time being shared between StarMetro and the riders, this responsibility would be shifted to the riders themselves. The riders will need to follow a complex system of networked routes. To reach a two transfer location, a rider must first start on one route and then negotiate two more transfers. Missing any one of these two transfers could leave the rider stranded at a stop. Upon reaching a transfer point, it will be difficult for a rider to determine how long they will have to wait for the arrival of a bus. Even if the wait time is as short as the maximum time of 22.5 minutes this is a long time for some people to have to stand at a stop not knowing for sure when the next bus will arrive. Transit time for riders won't be less if they spend part of it at stops away from the Plaza instead of on a bus. The bus might move faster but the riders won't. Instead of spending time in the safety of the bus or the Plaza, they will literally be left on the side of the road in the heat, the rain and the cold. The current system of timed stops and routes that intersect at the Plaza enable both the StarMetro staff and the riders to address issues in a prompt and efficient manner. In addition, the Plaza provides other amenities that are frequently needed by riders such as access to restrooms and vending machines. Having some routes that require two transfers to go somewhere as basic as a grocery store or a doctor's office is hardly an efficient system. Additionally, the connection issues on the west part of town need to be resolved first. Having a connecting route between Appleyard and Tennessee/Tharpe on weekends and nights might partially resolve this problem. Online trip planning sounds good but it is not a viable alternative for many of the people who ride the bus. With the digital divide that still exists in Tallahassee, many people don't have easy access to this information - especially while waiting for the next bus at a transfer point. Phone banks only work if people at the transfer points have access to a phone. Despite the prevalence of cell phones, not everyone can afford to have a phone to carry with them. Nova2010 may meet transit guidelines as to distance to stops in the downtown area but this fails to take into consideration the nature of the buildings involved. These buildings - City Hall, Supreme Court, R.A. Gray - are essential to citizen participation in government. City Hall is the center of the local Tallahassee Government and the R.A. Gray Building contains access to the Division of Elections for Florida as well as the State Archives with the unwritten history of Florida. For example, just attending meetings at City Hall under Nova2010 could require from one to two transfers from Jackson Bluff if the meeting extends into the evening hours - as frequently happens. Currently this requires no transfer from downtown to Jackson Bluff. The changes under Nova2010 would thus make it harder for the people in this area who depend on the buses to participate in these meetings. The transportation planners need to think like bus riders instead of drivers. People who drive cars are more concerned with how fast the vehicle can more. This can give the illusion that you are actually reaching your destination faster as well. People who ride the bus are more concerned with how easily they can reach their destination. They consider accessibility, dependability and timeliness to be of utmost importance. The current system may move some buses more slowly but it is unproven that Nova2010 will actually enable people to reach their destinations with a shorter transit time. Traveling faster but not getting where you really need to go is like building a bus system to nowhere. Tallahassee doesn't have a grid road system and trying to impose a strict grid system for bus service doesn't consider true reality. The current plan to put a grid system in place is an example of trying to put a square peg into a round hole. It can't be done without causing damage to either the peg or the hole. Most of this plan could be likened to smoke and mirrors - it gives the impression that it fits but it doesn't really do so. Again, I urge the City Commission to vote no on March 24th in regards to the Nova2010 plan. However, if it chooses to go forward with this proposal the following steps will need to be implemented to ensure that the poor, the elderly and the disabled are not disenfranchised. Responsible transition from the currently safety-heavy, accessible bus system to a decentralized grid system requires, at the least, that these 10 points be not only adequately assessed by StarMetro and City of Tallahassee administrators, but also be subject to review and comment by the bus-riding public BEFORE IMPLEMENTATION: 1 A final answer: What will it cost to ride a bus under the new system? Two buses, three buses? During what time allotment? A specified fee schedule for boarding the bus, specifically addressing relevant issues of transfers, if used: type (paper, magnetic cards, etc.), processing (and how to handle fare box errors), time until expiration, and its effect on the boarding fee for Dial-a-Ride. 2 Where will the transfer points be? If possible, where will the bus stops be? Specific locations for all stops and transfer points, designated on a map that is presented not only online, but also on display (in reasonably large format for general viewing) at C.K. Steele Plaza. 3 A review of and report on safety/security issues at proposed bus transfer locations to be conducted prior to implementation of the new system by TPD and other appropriate agencies. This evaluation should include a study of increased risk to bus riders caused by transfers taking place at major intersections. 4 A phone accessible system on all days/hours of bus operation for riders to receive specific information on whether buses are on time and for reporting problems. An alternative manner of completely handling all functions currently performed at the ticket booth at C.K. Steele Plaza, which includes providing route/schedule information, reporting of late buses or other problems, and ticket purchase. This might be a phone accessible system, manned during all days/hours of bus operation. 5 A review of the effects the new system will have on current youth riders (age 18 and under) to schools such as Florida State University School, especially in regards to transfer locations. For example, where will their most likely transfer points be. This review should include a report on safety/security issues as they specifically relate to youth riders, focusing on their most popular destinations (schools, city after-school centers, malls). 6 A report on how the changes to the fixed route system will affect the Dial-a-Ride System, both in terms of revenue and ridership. 7. Ongoing group information sessions (listening sessions) to allow riders to provide feedback to city staff and Commissioners on routes, schedules, transfer points, and bus frequencies. Scheduled "Listening Sessions" over the first 36 months after implementation, at which current riders can provide feedback to city staff and Commissioners on how well the system is meeting their needs (routes, schedules, transfer points, and bus frequencies). 8. Creation of a permanent Tallahassee Bus Riders Advisory Committee with appointees to be bus riders. This committee will alert the city to problems/issues and make recommendations regarding ongoing changes to the bus system and day-to-day operations. (The Mayor and each City Commissioner would appoint one or more citizens each to this board. The City Commission would choose its Chairman/Advisor.) 9. Beginning April 2010, detailed monthly reports to the city and public by StarMetro staff on Nova 2010's progress and issues. These reports should be presented to the City Commission, published on StarMetro's Talgov web page, and displayed (in at least 14pt print) at C.K. Steele Plaza. 10 A report or action plan improving the recording of bus ridership, specifically stopping the undercounting of riders that are not sponsored by the universities or TCC. This will insure that the poor, the elderly, and the disabled are not underrepresented and disenfranchised by StarMetro statistics. Everyone agrees that there is room for improvement under the current system but surely StarMetro can come up with something better than Nova 2010. Check out the TABI resource web page at http://acorange.home.comcast.net/TABI and please make suggestions for new material. if you'd like to unsubscribe you can do so through the freelists.org web interface, or by sending an email to the address tabi-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject.