City bus system to be subject of study

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 05:17 PM

City bus routes and ridership are among the issues a consultant will examine in an upcoming study of High Point’s public transportation system.
City officials on Thursday sent out requests for proposals from firms interested in conducting the study, which will analyze the Hi tran bus service. The proposals are due in late February. At some point later in the year, the City Council will award a contract for the study. The city has budgeted about $180,000 for the project.
“The consultant will take a look at existing service, see how it’s doing, compare us to similar systems and then make recommendations on where we can make improvements, and also make recommendations on how to incorporate new service,” said Assistant Transit Manager Angela Wynes.
One issue sure to get attention in the study is whether to add a bus route to serve the Eastchester Drive corridor. Currently, Hi tran extends only to Oak Hollow Mall on this road.
Over the years, discussion has centered on whether running buses to points north would create more job opportunities for residents in core city areas by providing transportation to some of the city’s largest employers in the Piedmont Centre industrial park off Eastchester Drive.
“If you look at the growth that’s occurred up there, particularly the commercial development, it begs the question as to what type of service might be needed,” said City Councilwoman Becky Smothers.
The region’s mass transit agency, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, operates a daily bus route along Eastchester Drive from downtown High Point to the PART hub in Greensboro.
The bus has a scheduled stop at the mall and stops at other points where riders can flag it down near PART signs along the route, according to agency spokeswoman Lisa Chislett. The route drew an average of 7,891 monthly riders from June through December 2012, Chislett said.
One issue the consultant will likely look into is how to enhance PART’s existing service in the area, Wynes said. The last Hi tran study the city commissioned was in 2001.
“There were some recommendations in there, but not really an opportunity to implement much, due to a lack of funding,” said Wynes.
Costs figure to be an issue in the upcoming study. Hi tran operates on about a $2.2 million deficit. Transit officials two years ago estimated that it would cost about $200,000 a year to serve the Eastchester Drive corridor with a bus route operating five days per week.