tallahassee.com October 21, 2009 Our Opinion: StarMetro's listening Constructive criticism will help the plan Tallahassee's public transportation system has long needed improvements to make it more user friendly and convenient to a wide range of riders - and potential riders. This summer, StarMetro introduced a plan - so far, just a plan - for a number of changes intended to be positive, everything from "going green" by encouraging more motorists to use public transportation from time to time, to eliminating the downtown transfer station that has been used for 40 years and adds extra time to any journey. So new cross-town routes that don't go downtown are being organized, along with plans for shorter wait times at the bus stops, though greater distances between some of them to accommodate the more frequent stops. WiFi-equipped buses now and plans to expand into outlying regions later are changes to salute. But, no question, there are problems to be addressed before the plan known as Nova 2010 is implemented. Part of an orderly process of change of this magnitude is to hear specific problems outlined in route-by-route detail by users who absolutely depend upon StarMetro as their chief means of not only transportation but independence. Critically important to the discussion are the very practical views of people who live and work with disabilities, many students, older people who choose not to drive - but not to never leave their homes - and those who can't afford to own and operate a car. Their mobility can't be sacrificed for an idealized leaner, greener, more efficient system. Which means adjustments can and must be made to the plan so that, when necessary, an additional stop, or stops a little closer together or at safer or more convenient locations, can be incorporated into the plan. As was noted by neighborhood association advocates who held a town hall meeting on the plan last week, "any mass transit plan must strike an appropriate balance between accessibility and mobility." Finding route-specific problems with the proposed public transportation plan doesn't make the overall goal of modernizing a bad idea. Change is needed if ever StarMetro is to attract new riders and become a more modern, regional mass transit system. Productive criticism and specific suggestions for change in the proposal are exactly what the Tallahassee city commissioners need before they vote on Nova 2010 in March.