“We did not get the quarter-penny sales tax to fund public transit that would have funded the MOVE Central Arkansas bus service improvement plan, which included major system improvements. We continue to explore how we can implement low- or no-cost improvements aligned with the MOVE Central Arkansas plan and make minor improvements within the constraints of our current funding structure,” said Becca Green, METRO director of public engagement. “We won’t be able to make the major changes our riders continue to request, such as system-wide extended operating hours and adding service miles that deviate farther out from existing routes. The good news is that we continue to educate our community about the service we have and make minor improvements we hope riders will appreciate, without the benefit of a dedicated source of funding.”
The METRO staff began its annual service review in April. The process of moving service miles to different places within the system involves a lot of math: The interlocal agreement that created the agency in 1986 dictates that any service miles within the system must stay within the jurisdiction that funds them. For example, service miles cannot be added in the City of Little Rock without removing service miles from another Little Rock location. In other words, the agency cannot add service miles to one jurisdiction by removing them from another jurisdiction. (Moving service miles from one jurisdiction to another could be possible with a corresponding establishment of a dedicated public transit funding source, which is outside of the agency’s control.)
Public comments are taken into consideration at the review’s onset and continue to influence the proposals. Technology tools also play a role: METRO uses transit planning software to make more precise calculations to create proposed route changes, taking into account jurisdiction boundaries, which change on an irregular basis. Automated passenger counters provide accurate data as to how many riders are boarding and alighting at each bus stop in the 1,600-stop system. Field work performed by METRO staff members yields information on trip generators (places to which riders travel), rider behavior patterns (such as when riders are traveling and why: work and school commutes, travel to health appointments, grocery stores, etc.) and factors that could affect proposed route schedule times (at-grade railroad crossings, school car rider lines, etc.).
“The bottom line is that, through hard work and a lot of careful, intensive planning, we are improving service for passengers by offering meaningful connections to destinations and refining schedules, all without the benefit of any additional funding,” Green said. “We continue to be extremely cost-efficient as we operate within the constraints of our current funding structure.”
During June and July, METRO staff prepped public information materials for each proposed change.
“We are excited to share this information,” said Green. “It gives our community a more accurate snapshot of public transit use and potential for our area. I think it demonstrates the dedication our board and staff bring to serving our community by constantly seeking ways to improve the system.”
Once the public information meetings passed, the agency hosted a 15-day public comment period Aug. 1-Aug. 15, 2018, followed by a meeting of the METRO Board of Directors, who approved the proposed changes at the November 2018 board meeting. Approved changes will be implemented in April 15, 2019. METRO staff members will work on updating affected route schedules (some routes without a route pattern change will still undergo a schedule change related to changes made on routes that will undergo a route pattern change), the bus service map, bus stop sign changes and other signage updates pending board approval of the proposed changes. All new information will be coordinated for an April 15, 2019 rollout, as the current system will be in place until the changes are implemented.
Rock Region METRO hosted two public meetings in July 2018 to present annual service enhancement information to interested persons for two routes in North Little Rock and two routes in Little Rock:
Monday, July 30, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Central Arkansas Library System Main Branch, Darragh Center Auditorium, 100 S. Rock St., Little Rock
Tuesday, July 31, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., North Little Rock City Hall, 300 Main St., North Little Rock
To eliminate duplication of service, provide a more direct route, and to add coverage, METRO staff recommends reverting Route 3 Baptist Medical Center back to Sandpiper Drive & Hughes Street. This route was modified in 2017 in preparation of the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s closure and replacement of the Hughes Street Bridge. As of October 2018, the new bridge is open. This change will provide more direct service to Midtown, add service to the Briarwood neighborhood and eliminate redundant service along University Avenue.
Approved Route 3 Baptist Medical Center Map
To increase mid-day coverage and reduce confusion among patrons, METRO staff recommends eliminating the shorter, off-peak “pattern” on Route 4 Levy/Amboy in order to run service all day along Donovan Briley Boulevard. Donovan Briley Boulevard has several multi-family housing communities and provides more service to a higher number of people. Currently, Route 4 runs during the morning and evening on its long route, along Donovan Briley Boulevard, Military Drive, Parkway Drive, and 47th Street. During the mid-day, off-peak period, Route 4 runs along Lindenhurst Drive and Allen Street. Passenger count data from 2018 indicates approximately 2 to 3 people per day are using the stops along Allen Street & Lindenhurst Drive.
Approved Route 4 Levy/Amboy Map
To increase frequency and to pilot an on-demand deviated fixed route strategy, METRO staff recommends transitioning the deviation on Chester Street to “by request only” service. This means that the bus will travel to Chester Street only when a request is received at least one hour before the time needed. This proposal means the majority of riders on Route 11 Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Drive, who access the route from its southernmost point, will have two additional bus runs per day, with schedule time savings gained from eliminating the route deviation on every trip. Passenger count data from 2018 indicates approximately 3 to 4 people per day use the stops along 12th Street, Chester Street, and Daisy Bates Drive.
Approved Route 11 Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Drive Map
To provide a more direct route, METRO staff recommends reverting Route 12 Clinton Center/Airport back to its pre-October 2016 inbound route pattern west of I-30. The approved change is to route the bus west along 3rd Street, south along the I-30 frontage road and west along 4th Street to the travel center.
To improve mobility options and to provide a new crosstown connection option for riders, staff recommends extending Route 18 McAlmont to eastern McCain Boulevard, with a new termination point at the Walmart on McCain. Utilizing the recently completed bridge on McCain Boulevard/Fairfax Drive, Route 18 will now be able to provide riders with one-ride access to Walmart. At the same time, it creates 10 weekday transfer opportunities with Route 10 McCain Mall, providing access to shopping and employment centers located along McCain Boulevard and J.F.K. Boulevard. To increase coverage, staff also recommends realigning the route from Edmonds Street to the original routing along Ben Street & 19th Street.
Approved Route 18 McAlmont Map
To improve on-time performance and to increase the reliability of timed transfers, staff recommends simplifying Route 22 University Avenue/Mabelvale service by changing the northbound route to match the southbound route along University Avenue. The time saved by eliminating the deviation off of University Avenue will be redistributed to the schedule to improve reliability of key transfers at Midtown Avenue, where five routes intersect for transfer opportunities. Passenger count data from 2018 indicates this will affect approximately 2 to 3 passengers per day making a connection to Route 16 UA – Little Rock at the Campus Drive stop. Service to the interior of UA – Little Rock campus will remain via Route 16 UA – Little Rock, which runs between the campus and downtown.
Approved Route 22 University Avenue/Mabelvale Map
Schedules for the following routes will change to accommodate the six route pattern changes and other scheduling needs:
Route 2 South Main Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 3 Baptist Medical Center Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 4 Levy/Amboy Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 5 West Markham Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 8 Rodney Parham Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 10 McCain Mall Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 11 Dr. M.L.K. Jr. Drive Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 12 Clinton Center/Airport Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 13 UA – Pulaski Technical College Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 14 Rosedale Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 17 Mabelvale/Downtown Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 18 McAlmont Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 19 Hensley Express Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 21 Riverdale Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 22 University Avenue/Mabelvale Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 25 Pinnacle Mountain Express Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 26 Maumelle/Oak Grove Express Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Route 36 Jacksonville/Sherwood Express Schedule Effective April 15, 2019
Thank you for your interest in improving central Arkansas’ public transit service. The public comment period for the 2018-2019 Annual Service Enhancements process was Wednesday, Aug. 1 to Wednesday, Aug. 15.
Comments were made by emailing the firstname.lastname@example.org address, subject line: 2018-2019 Annual Service Enhancements.
METRO takes public comments on a variety of concerns at any time throughout the year. Please share your thoughts with us by using the Email Us form under the interactive Questions/Concerns links at the top and bottom of this page.
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