TX: City Council Hears Recommendations on Future of Citibus

Jan. 21--The wheels on the bus could be changing direction.

According to a 177-page report on the Citibus system, presented to the City Council on Jan. 9, Lubbock buses are in need of route changes, vehicle upgrades and more frequent service.

The report was conducted and presented by Bob Bourne of Iowa-based Bourne Transit Consulting.

"It provides Citibus and the city of Lubbock with guidelines as far as, if we were to increase our service, these are the most logical steps for us to take next," said Maurice Pearl, general manager of Citibus. According to the report, the last study of its kind was conducted in 1991.

Mayor Glen Robertson said the recommendations would most likely be implemented in stages.

"The majority of it, I'm anticipating, we'll see in the budget requests for future years," he said. "There are going to be some tough decisions, probably not for this council, but for the next council seated."

Route changes

Bourne's recommendations include modifying existing bus routes to improve efficiency.

One of the affected routes would be Route No. 5, which currently runs from the Downtown Transfer Plaza on Broadway to the Texas Tech campus.

Bourne's recommendations involve moving the route to run on Main Street between Buddy Holly Avenue and Avenues Q or W. The reason, the report reads, would be to decrease the amount of wear on the vehicles' suspension, which might occur from constant travel on Broadway's brick pavement.

Another suggestion is to modify Route No. 12 to reduce backtracking. The route currently serves the Wal-Mart Supercenter at 1911 Marsha Sharp before doubling back to pick up passengers from the Guadalupe Park neighborhood and continuing onward.

The proposed change would split the Guadalupe Park stop from the current route, and create a new Route No. 7, which would run in a continuous 30-minute loop from the plaza to Wal-Mart to Guadalupe Park and back.

Pearl said his office is interested in the Route No. 7 alternative, as it would not increase the operational budget.

Other suggested routing changes include eliminating low-ridership areas. The suggestions include:

--Route No. 1: Use southbound Avenue A to East 23rd Street and Date Avenue, instead of running 19th to Cedar Avenue to Date Avenue.

--Route No. 2: Use Guava Avenue instead of Holly Avenue between Broadway and East 16th Street.

--Route No. 14: Eliminate a loop that travels up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to serve Estacado High School.

According to Robertson, any proposed route changes will be subject to a public hearing before the City Council.

The report also mentions adjusting routes to synchronize with the current Tech bus schedules.

Vehicle upgrades

According to the report, fixed route buses are designed for a 12-year useful life. The Citibus fleet averages 10.9 years.

"As the average fleet age approaches the design life, significant maintenance expense will be incurred," the report reads. "Motors, transmissions, and other expensive components will fail and will require an increase in locally generated funding in order to maintain the aging fleet."

At the council meeting, Bourne told District 5 Councilwoman Karen Gibson a new bus could cost about $400,000.

The report recommends the city purchase 32 buses in the next three years to bring the average age of the fleet down. Afterwards, 1/12 of the fleet should be replaced each year.

Ride frequency

Currently, the bus system operates from 5:25 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. For most of the day, buses arrive and depart at 30-minute intervals. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., buses operate every 60 minutes. A shared ride program, NiteRide, operates from 6:45 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. at a $4.50 fare with advance reservations.

According to Bourne's presentation, the system could generate more money from ridership by increasing frequency in the afternoon and evenings.

"Many low- and moderate-income jobs required travel in non-traditional travel periods such as late morning through early evening," the report reads. "The 60-minute intervals in the midday and lack of fixed route service in the evening make it difficult to attract passengers who work in service jobs to current transit service."

Bourne's report suggests ramping up service to 30-minute intervals during the late evening and early afternoon.

Pearl said the next step in implementing some of these changes is finding a source of funding.

"Always if we get funding, we want to know what direction we need to take, so when and if we do receive additional funding, we can move forward with suggestions that were provided in the initial report," he said.

blake.ursch@lubbockonline.com

-- 766-8722

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