By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
No, there aren’t plans to add Saturday transit service back.
Salem-Keizer Transit has been holding open houses recently as part of its Moving Forward initiative, a project designed to increase frequency on busy bus routes, establish consistent frequency and reduce coverage in low-ridership areas.
One such open house was held Tuesday afternoon in the Keizer Civic Center lobby. Outreach events continue though the end of September; a list of the events can be found at www.cherriots.org/movingforward.
The main emphasis of Moving Forward is to look at the first phase of proposed changes, which could be implemented next June.
Adding weekend, holiday or extended evening service times would be in future phases.
Jared Choc, Planning and Technology manager at Cherriots, noted the weekend question is a common one at outreach events.
“Everyone tells us they want weekend service,” Choc said. “We have a proposal for that. This is preplanning for what Saturday service could be. We’re trying to do more with the resources we have.”
Sadie Carney, director of Community Relations at Cherriots, said transit consultants did a bus service analysis which included surveys, polls and workshops. That led to the recommended changes being suggested in the outreach events.
“Feedback will go to our planning staff,” Carney said. “Planning staff will come to us with a plan in February.”
The Cherriots board is expected to approve a plan in February.
“If we’ve done our job well, there could be only minor changes in February,” Choc said. “That is when we’d have an official public hearing process. The more folks we talk to now, the better the map we draw.”
Maps used during the outreach show what the current Cherriots service looks like, with another map showing service with proposed changes.
“The biggest change we hope to explore would have buses changed to running every 15 minutes on busy routes,” Carney said. “That has been well received. Some routes go from hourly to every 15 minutes, while on some routes we would not run service there.”
Carney said getting more frequent service on some of the main routes will mean lesser used routes would have to be cut back. More direct routes with fewer transfers are also being looked at, as well as more consistent schedules throughout the day, as opposed to the current model of more buses in service only during the primary morning and afternoon commute times.
“Since our 2009 redesign, our focus has been on what the work day looks like, around 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” she said. “We’re looking at ridership numbers and see people are riding all day. People are working service jobs at different times of the day. Those are people we want to serve.”
Carney emphasized the budget isn’t being increased for the proposed first phase.
“All of this can take place within the current budget constraints,” she said. “Most people will get better access to high quality transit, four times an hour. The tradeoff is some people will lose some service.”
For the most part, the outreach is being done to solicit feedback and to see if the collected data leading to the changes was indeed correct.
“We’ve done a lot of work and we’ve made changes,” Carney said. “Now we’re turning to the public and saying this is what the data says, what do you say?”
With changes made, she said the groundwork would be laid to add additional service in the future. However, adding service such as Saturday runs would require more funding.
“If we don’t get this (first part) right, that part won’t be right,” Carney said. “The first question is always about Saturday service. Everyone wants to know about Saturday service. We have planned for it and are ready to do it, we just need more funding. We would need a levy to pass.”