Today’s guest post was written by Brady Dorman. Brady is an architecture student at Iowa State University and posts about architecture, urbanism, and transit on Urban Thinking. He is also a driver for CyRide and we asked him to share his report on the third and final CR Transit Study Open House.
The third and final CR Transit Study open house was held this past Tuesday, where the consultants presented final recommendations for route changes and improvements. The final route changes proposed are a combination of “minimal” and “moderate” modification options that were presented at the second open house in October. These initial changes are focused on improving legibility and efficiency of each route without significantly increasing cost. The consultants also provided system recommendations for marketing, operations, infrastructure and fleet, finances, and future planning.
For Route 1, the consultants recommended the “moderate” modification presented at the second open house. This removes the northern “hump” segment along Ellis Blvd. that goes by Ellis Park and adds service on Edgewood Rd. all the way to Westdale Mall. By straightening indirect segments the entire route is simplified, providing bi-directional service the entire length. From the Time Check neighborhood, the route runs along Ellis Blvd. to O Ave. to Edgewood, to Westdale Mall where the bus turns around. The modified route would provide a consistent frequency of 60 minutes all day.
Recommended changes to routes 2 and 9, which serve Mt. Vernon Road and the SE quadrant, make them the exact same route with Route 9 running in a clockwise direction and Route 2 counter-clockwise. The current routes operate much the same way, but deviate from each other along certain segments. The pairing of these routes and elimination of lowest ridership segments will make transit easier to use in the SE quadrant with more direct service in both directions. Route 9, the clockwise loop, is proposed to run only during peak periods with five trips per day at 60 minute frequency. Route 2 will run all day long with 60 minute service.
Route 3 riders can relax now, as the “moderate” modification that eliminated the entire route is not being recommended. Instead Route 3 will go with the minimal modification option, which simply makes the route more direct. A short section north of Blairs Ferry that runs behind the Post Office and Target is removed, as well as the Eastern Ave. loop between 27th and 32nd streets that was implemented not more than a year ago. An outbound section along Grande Ave. is also eliminated, so the route will run on 3rd Ave outbound all the way to 19th Street. Modified route will have 60 minute service all day.
Recommended changes to Route 4 are very minimal, removing a short segment on Hollywood Blvd. and Regent Street NE. Instead the route will run along Oakland Rd. to 42nd Street via a short section of Golf Street. This minor change will provide additional direct service to the Noelridge Park Pool, in addition to Route 3 that operates along 42nd and Council streets. The modified Route 4 will provide 60 minute service all day.
All changes to routes 5B, 5N, and 5S are proposed beyond Lindale Mall, where the three routes split from 1st Ave. Generally segments with very low ridership are removed to increase peak cycle time of each route to 80 minutes from 90 minutes.
On Route 5B, which serves northern Cedar Rapids and Hiawatha, the Tower Terrace Rd. loop is removed. The remaining “lower loop” along Blairs Ferry Rd, Center Point Rd, Robins Rd, Boyson Rd, and C Ave operates in a clockwise direction, without the AM/PM directional shift as initially proposed at open house 2.
In Marion, 5N is simplified into a counter-clockwise loop along McGowen Blvd. between 44th Street and 10th Street. The 29th Ave / Alburnett Rd. loop is removed, as well as a section along 8th Ave. Route 5S remains mostly the same with a simple counter-clockwise loop through south Marion, but now turns around at 31st Street, instead of going all the way out to Walmart.
The addition of a fourth bus running on the 5’s during peak allows a combined service frequency of 20 minutes between downtown and Lindale, and individual route frequency of 60 minutes. For instance, if 5B departs downtown at 4:00, 5N leaves at 4:20, 5S leaves at 4:40, then the extra bus starts a new trip of 5B from downtown at 5:00, before the original 5B bus returns. That 5B would then start a 5N trip at 5:20. So during peak time service, each bus would actually rotate between the three different routes instead of doing the same route over and over as they do now. Individual route frequency would resort to 90 minutes during midday, as to provide consistent 30 minute departures from downtown.
These changes to the 5’s are good initial steps to improving legibility and efficiency along these routes. The increased peak frequency is great, but hopefully it can be increased for the entire day in the near future – at least on weekdays. Twenty minute service all day between downtown and Lindale seems reasonable, given the consistent high ridership along this corridor, and then 5N and 5S through Marion would provide 60 minute service through Marion all day instead of reverting to 90 minutes during midday. However, it is understandable that to implement these initial changes right away, they cannot increase operational or overhead costs.
Modifications to Route 6 primarily affect service in Hiawatha. The Miller Rd. / Boyson Rd. loop is removed, but a smaller outbound loop on Emmons Street is maintained. Blairs Ferry Rd. gains bi-directional service between Walmart and Edgewood, where a new endpoint loop improves service to new commercial development around HyVee. The new route will have 60 minute frequency and 30 minute peak service.
Recommendations for Route 7 turn it into a bi-directional route, greatly improving service to Kirkwood Community College. Currently the route makes a huge loop that goes through campus, out to C Street. and reconnects with Bowling St. at 41st Ave Dr SW. If a student gets on the route at a campus apartment to go to class, the only way back to their apartment is via downtown. The modifications eliminate the loop and have the route turn around at AEGON / Yellowbook, providing service through campus in both directions. Closer to downtown, the route is shifted from C Street in Czech Village (picked up by Route 12) over to J Street until it reconnects with Bowling Street at 33rd Ave SW. Modified Route 7 is 60 minute all day frequency and 30 minute peak service.
Changes to Route 8 improve legibility and bi-directional service by simplifying the redundant and confusing looping segments that currently exist on the western end. One loop at the end between West Post and Stony Point roads provides service to and from Taft Middle School to students living along the route east or west of the school. Modified route has 60 minute service all day.
Changes to Route 10 are very minimal, only removing a short loop section between 1st Ave. and Johnson Ave. Otherwise this route remains as a fairly simple loop route serving Westdale Mall and Jefferson High School. Modified route has a proposed 60 minute frequency with 30 minute peak service.
Modifications recommended for Route 11 are actually quite substantial. Service along J Street SW between 16th and 33rd avenues is removed, but picked up by the new Route 7. This creates a new straight shot along 6th Street SW all the way from 8th Ave to Wright Brothers Blvd, with the exception of a two-block deviation at 29th Ave. Service is maintained at the airport, which was added after the flood when intercity buses began using the terminal. Service to College Community Schools is reduced to a 3 times per day route deviation from 6th Street to Prairie directly along 76th Ave. This change was a major concern for a few Prairie teachers and students who were at the earlier open house session. The modified route will have 60 minute all day frequency and 30 minute peak service.
And finally, Route 12. This route becomes much more bi-directional along Wilson Ave. Segments along 8th Ave and 6th Street SW are removed (picked up by Route 11), and replaced by a segment along C Street through Czech Village to Wilson Ave, which was removed from Route 7. A large clockwise loop around the Westdale area is simplified. The modified route has 60 minutes frequency all day.
Some interesting numbers were provided at the open house. With the route modifications, total route mileage decrease from 220.9 to 205.8, but total daily trips actually increase from 194 to 213. The number of peak buses is reduced from 21 to 20, but with the increase of trips total daily miles increases from 2990 to 3113. I was told these numbers will be adjusted slightly, but in general they show that service is being increased while minimizing increases in overhead and operational costs (i.e. same number of drivers, same amount of time on the clock).
Except for the 5’s, all route cycle times are reduced to a neat 60 minutes, from the previous 70 minute afternoon cycles. To recap, routes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 10 will operate at 60 minute frequencies all day. Route 9 will operate at 60 minute frequency during the morning and afternoon peak period. Routes 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12 will all maintain their current 30 minute peak service.
In addition to route changes, the consultants also made system recommendations. I’m particularly pleased with their recommendations for marketing and operations, which include:
- Improve the overall appearance of schedule and route information
- Produce a new system map
- Improve website with trip planner providing origin-destination capabilities
- Provide real-time bus arrival information for cell phone or computer users
- Develop monthly newsletter for passengers and use Twitter for immediate detour announcements
Other recommendations were provided for the system fleet, bus stop infrastructure, finances, and future planning. Recommendations for fleet are:
- Provide destination signs with route number, route name, and destination on all buses
- Pursue earmark for 12 new low floor buses
- Install improved public address system on all buses
- Evaluate cost of automatic voice enunciator system
These are all issues that clearly need addressing at CR Transit. The next step is City Council approval and implementation by CR Transit. The changes proposed were designed to be able to implement right away as a first step to improving transit service in Cedar Rapids. I look forward to seeing these changes take place.
Update: The final report is posted here.