June 03--CORPUS CHRISTI -- Marking its largest service change, the Regional Transportation Authority on Monday dramatically restructured its bus routes to increase the frequency of popular routes and cut down on the number of transfers needed.
Nearly all of the Regional Transportation Authority's routes were altered in response to passenger input gathered during a yearlong strategic planning initiative to prepare for the agency's future and address passenger needs.
Three routes were slashed to cut down on redundancies and their stops were absorbed into other routes, while three new routes were added to offer more direct service to popular destinations.
Buses also now leave the transfer stations every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, offering quicker connectivity between stations, spokeswoman Jane Haas said.
The widespread changes confounded some passengers, especially routes 29 and 19, which now offer three different schedules each.
Passenger Brenda Long said she boarded the wrong route 29 Monday and rode 20 minutes out of her way before she figured it out.
"It's all confusing," she said. "Which bus are you supposed to get on? You don't know."
Calls to the customer service center doubled Monday, Haas said.
But passenger Willis Hand said the confusion should dissipate as passengers learn the new schedules.
"It's just a bus system, it's not brain science," he said.
To alleviate confusion, RTA deployed staff members at stations across the city to explain the changes and help passengers understand which buses to catch. Also through Saturday, the agency will not charge passengers as they navigate the new routes.
"They're letting us ride for free to get used to the changes so that's awesome," passenger Rachael McFatridge said.
As the system continues to grow and expand -- ridership has topped 6 million passengers per year since 2011 -- the agency needed to restructure routes to address problem with overcapacity, particularly during peak times between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Haas said.
"There were people waiting to get on bus and the bus was at capacity they had to wait for another one to come along," she said.
The effect on the budget is minimal, Haas said, noting new routes replaced eliminated routes.
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