Vice President of Business Development Samantha Cross says, “Normally we have plans to reduce service; we’re always ready.” She continues, “So it was like Hanukkah or Christmas, just a wonderful gift.” Not knowing the budget outcomes, they had started their plans last summer, while the budget was still in development and had put together a good scenario and best-case scenario.
The initial investment was made to enable more frequent service. Cross explains, “In our system we have 36 routes but two or three of our routes are a little bit more than 35 percent of our ridership so those are the backbone of our routes; we put more frequency into those routes.” She adds, “That also enables Bryan [Luellen] to become more creative with how we market the services. Now, we can actually say we have frequent services.”
Manager of Marketing Bryan Luellen states, “That hasn’t happened on these routes in 50 years. Service has just been in a spiral of degrading and this is the first time that we can really say ‘frequent service,’ so that’s exciting.”
After increasing frequency on core routes, they looked at some later service on some routes, frequency improvements on others, a new route across town on the north side, and also used it as an opportunity to realign some routes.
Not Your Usual Stop
Working with People for Urban Progress (PUP), IndyGo has a fun and creative program for bus stops.
PUP wants smart urban design and is an advocate of transit. It is involved in the community and Cross says most people know about them because they get materials that are going to be thrown away and then repurpose them. An example was the mesh cloth from a dome roof when the RCA Dome stadium came down. They have used the cloth to make things such as purses, wallets and bags.
When Bush Stadium was being redeveloped into apartments, they had this excess seating. PUP had a deal with the city and developer to get that old seating and it was thought that would be a fun and creative idea for seating at stops.
“In 2011 they said, ‘We have a seat,’” Cross explains, “So we found a good location.
“Our approach was we’ll start with existing locations and we can swap them out.” She continues, “And to help cover the costs, we’ll develop a program because we can’t pay for every one that goes down because they cost a little bit more than our standard bench, but we’ll share the expense with people.”
Cross says they went ahead and invested in a few to plant the seed and now IndyGo’s director of planning is overseeing the program. “It’s not a quick program because they still have to refurbish them but we have five or six seats out and the list is getting close to 10 that we’re getting ready to deploy.
“We’re trying to make it simple,” she says. “We just buy it directly from PUP and people can donate to our program.
“If they’re replacing an existing bench, we cover the cost. If it’s a new location we would invest in, we’re splitting the cost with them.” She explains, “We didn’t want to spend more than we normally would spend on them with this program.”
A Focus on Customer Service
Like many agencies, originally IndyGo recruited people with a CDL for its operators but today it has changed that approach. “What we found is our most likely candidate to come in was either a truck driver or a school bus driver and those roles didn’t always translate well into operating in transit,” explains Vice President of Human Resources Michael Birch. “We’re trying to follow a model that has a stronger emphasis on customer service. Our future goal is to really go after the hospitality industry.”
If a candidate passes through the pre-employment process, IndyGo pays to send them to a CDL school. It is partnering with a tech school to do the training and then the candidate comes back to indyGo with the CDL and are hired and start the training academy where they go through the typical training that everybody gets.
There are some older buses outside the 12-year mark that Birch says they are transferring to the school and IndyGo gets credit back on the value of the buses. “Some of our costs will be offset by the deletion of the buses,” Birch says.