Without spending additional money, the City of Minot could alter its public bus routes to better serve the busiest areas of the city, a study is concluding after nine months of research into the transit system.
City bus officials and representatives of transportation consultant Nelson/Nygaard of Portland, Ore., provided information and gathered feedback at an open house Wednesday at Minot State University. A second open house will be held today from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in Dakota Square Mall.
"There's no significant increase in cost," consultant Paul Lutey said of proposed changes to the system in the short term. "It really restructures things to focus on providing more direct services to main connections."
Scott Chapman with Nelson/Nygaard, transportation consultants, gives an overview of the study on the City of Minot’s transit system to a visitor at an open house Wednesday at Minot State University.
The plan creates two core routes served every 30 minutes during peak ridership periods from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. One core route would run along North Broadway to MSU and along Eighth Street Northwest, extending west to the new MarketPlace Foods. The other core route would run along South Broadway and include Walmart, Dakota Square Mall and the Minot Family YMCA.
During off-peak times on core routes and all day on non-core routes, buses would run every hour on a schedule that runs weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fixed-route service now ends at 4:30 or 5 p.m. on weekdays. There is no weekend service.
Lutey said the need for core routes became evident in looking at population and employment factors.
"This really stood out to us dramatically. You have strong employment along Broadway. What we know about doing this in other places is ridership responds to these two basic things, which are population density and employment density," he said. "That really drives the service plan. We also heard from people that they wanted more direct services and longer services hours."
The proposed core routes would run back and forth rather than in a one-way loop as the existing bus service does with current routes that circle every hour.
The proposed route system would keep the same routes throughout the day. Currently, the city operates different routes in the early morning, when students make up the bulk of the ridership, than it does during the midday.
One new area proposed to be added to a route is the Woodridge neighborhood. Many proposed route changes aren't necessarily drastic, though.
"A lot of the routes have similar elements," Lutey said. However, he added, some existing riders might have to walk a little farther, particularly to catch the early morning bus.
The proposal includes some long-term options to address additions that the public has indicated in surveys that it would like to see. These changes include weekday service to 9 p.m., weekend service, start time of 6 a.m., more core routes and new southwest and northwest routes. The cost of the additional services range from $50,000 a year for adding an hour of service to $200,000 a year to add another route. The city has budgeted $867,161 for existing bus services in 2014.
Lutey said people are asked to help determine the priority of various long-term additions. To view the short-term and long-term plans and make comments, people can log onto (www.minotbusstudy.com). Consultants will use comments submitted over the next few weeks to develop a draft plan to present to the Minot City Council in either November or December.
Brian Horinka, city bus superintendent, said he has been tweaking routes already, but the council will have to decide if and when major changes are made after reviewing the draft plan.
In developing the draft plan, consultants will be working with the city to better identify costs of long-term changes and potential areas for fixed stops. Routes now are rider-flagged stops only.
Another area of concern is marketing, both short- and long-term.
"The most difficult thing about it would be educating the public," Horinka said of the changes. "I don't want to lose any of our current ridership in the transition. I want to make sure we keep serving that public while we add services."