RTS study highlight of task force meeting

Study is in need of residents' feedback

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 12:52 p.m.

Developing ways to better serve east Gainesville residents who use the city bus system to travel to west Gainesville for medical appointments, leisure activities and shopping is a critical part of a study being done to figure out how to deliver "premium transportation service" in the Gainesville/Alachua County metropolitan area.

An update on the "Go Enhance RTS Study" being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., a global consulting firm whose Orlando office is conducting the study, was presented last Wednesday to close to 50 members of the Black on Black Crime Task Force during its monthly meeting at the Kirby Smith Center.

And RTS officials are in need of feedback from the community, and especially east Gainesville bus riders. According to the RTS website, Friday will be the last day to review a presentation on the study and complete the questionnaire.

Matthew Muller, a city transportation manager, said residents are encouraged to fill out a questionnaire online at www.go-rts.com. Click on "About RTS" and scroll down to "RTS Projects," click on "Go Enhance RTS Study" and then on "Workshop/Questionnaires."

Residents also will have a chance to give more input in the fall at outreach activities and via a public opinion questionnaire.

The meeting also included comments from Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones, who said "crime in Gainesville is continuing on a downward spiral."

He also said a coalition of law enforcement and community stakeholders met for the first time last Wednesday to start serious discussions about how to use a $25,000 grant aimed at reducing the disproportionate number of minorities in the juvenile justice system in Alachua County.

The grant was awarded a year ago by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Children's Law and Policy.

The highlight of the meeting was the RTS study update given by Alan Danaher, a project manager with Parsons Brinckerhoff. He said the study, which began last fall, is a follow-up to a study done in 2010 that determined implementing a bus rapid transit system would be the best solution for the future transportation needs of the Gainesville/Alachua County metropolitan area.

He said subsequent to that study, the city and RTS secured funding from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration to do the current study, which is a more detailed study to determine if, in fact, bus rapid transit is the best alternative.

Bus rapid transit is a form of fixed-route bus service that combines features like bus-only lanes and bus priority at traffic signals to provide faster and more efficient service.

Danaher said the study has several major components, but emphasized that better service for the east Gainesville community was absolutely a major component of the study. He said the study is still in the planning and analytical stages that involve getting feedback from the community.

Danaher said some feedback so far has revealed that residents want more bike racks, enhanced lighting, better "next bus information" and more security features, such as closed-circuit TVs at future locations that will serve as min-bus transfer stations.

Task force member Doris Edwards, who also is chair of the Lincoln Estates Neighborhood Watch, suggested that more people who actually ride RTS be sought to fill out surveys and give their input about how they can be better served.

"You need to put in more outreach, go door to door, speak face-to-face with people and also do street-corner chats within neighborhoods, so you can actually talk to people who need to ride the bus," Edwards said.

The task force normally meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month at the Kirby Smith Center. In July, the group will meet on July 10, the second Wednesday of the month, also at Kirby Smith, for its annual bus tour to neighborhoods throughout the city.

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