City may adjust bus routes

May. 03, 2014 @ 03:01 PM

If you board one of the city’s Hi tran buses, you can only go as far north as Oak Hollow Mall.
Some leaders are saying it’s time to change this so High Point’s public transportation system reaches more of the city’s largest employers and retail centers, like the Palladium shopping center in north High Point.
HDR Engineering Inc. of Raleigh is studying the Hi tran system to see where improvements need to be made.
City Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall said she believes too many bus routes cover parts of the core city that once were occupied by major industries, but no longer.
“If you look at some of routes that went to where the jobs were, the jobs aren’t there anymore,” Mendenhall said. “The jobs are now at the Palladium, and you have people that need to get there. I just think right now, we’re all messed up with running buses where people don’t need to go, and we’re not running them where they do need to go.”
The region’s mass transit agency, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, or PART, has a route that serves the Palladium, but does not go into the nearby Piedmont Centre or Premier Center business parks, home to many of the city’s largest employers.
Data gathered by the consultant show some of the bus routes with the lowest ridership are those that go though industrial areas of south High Point.
The “Industrial Park” route along S. Elm Street and Surrett Drive draws only 0.3 percent of the bus system’s approximately 3,550 total average daily boardings.
A route through the same area along W. Green Drive has 3.4 percent of the ridership.
The two busiest routes are S. Main Street, with 21.2 percent of the ridership, and N. Main Street, which has 14.9 percent.
The consultants found from an on-board ridership survey that most people use the bus system to travel between home and work. They also reported that 65 percent of the riders said the bus was their only option and that 74 percent had annual household incomes of under $15,000.
The consultants reviewed how High Point’s transit system compares to its peers in terms of cost effectiveness and other measures.
Operating costs and subsidy per rider are below peer average, while farebox recovery is above peer average, they reported.
City Transportation Director Mark McDonald said compared to its peers, High Point’s transit system is “healthy,” though it may need to be tweaked, as far as shifting routes.
Discontinuing a route in one part of the city could free up equipment and personnel to serve a different route, he added.
The city’s paratransit service, Dial-A-Lift, serves individuals with disabilities and those who are over 60. The city may consider raising the eligibility age for the service, said Councilwoman Becky Smothers.
“Those trips are expensive, and that population is growing,” she said.
pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531