Greenlink could see the first significant improvements to its routes and stops in decades if recommendations from its recently-completed Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) are implemented. The Greenville Transit Authority (GTA) hired Atlanta-based Connetics Transportation Group to facilitate the eight-month study, which was funded through a public-private partnership between the City of Greenville, Greenville County and the Piedmont Health Foundation. Its purpose was to identify strengths and areas for improvement and provide suggestions to improve efficiency and increase ridership while remaining revenue neutral.
The final study was presented to the GTA Board of Directors at a meeting on August 24, and to the public at a drop-in style open house later in the day. Three noteworthy findings from the study include: 1) Greenlink uses its limited resources more efficiently than its peers based on its low cost per peak vehicle, cost per revenue hour and cost per revenue mile; 2) with the restriction of remaining revenue neutral, the best way to impact efficiency in service is to offer bi-directional routes, meaning the bus services both sides of the road, rather than loop routes; and 3) Greenlink’s maintenance facility is too small to adequately serve the system. According to GTA board chair Addy Matney, gathering data on performance has been a priority for the board for the past two years. “We know our customers and potential customers want better service,” said Matney. “Identifying and implementing these positive short-term, revenue neutral changes are important first steps toward building a more vibrant transit system for our community.”
Below is a brief summary of the study’s findings:
Existing Network Performance
- Greenlink is an underfunded transit system. On average, its peers are operating much more service and are spending $10-12 million annually to do it (compared to Greenlink’s $4.5 million).
- This underfunding means the system is not as useful or convenient as it could be. As a result, Greenlink is less productive in attracting riders.
- Greenlink does better than its peers on cost efficiency and vehicle utilization. The agency gets a lot of service out of its funding and vehicles.
- Routes with highest ridership in the system are Route 2 (White Horse Road), Route 10 (Augusta Road), Route 3 (Poinsett/Rutherford) and Route 12 (Overbrook)
- Routes with the lowest ridership in the system are Route 16 (Circulator), Route 14 (Mauldin/Simpsonville), Route 6 (Anderson Road) and Route 9 (West Parker/Berea/Woodside)
- At the stop-level, many of the stops with highest ridership are outside of the Greenville core and tend to focus on destinations like major shopping centers, Walmarts, hospitals and educational facilities such as CU-ICAR and the Greenville Tech Barton Campus
- Route 3 (Poinsett/Rutherford) is late 91% of the time; Route 11 (Wade Hampton/Taylors), which is late 36% of the time, is a distant second
After careful analysis of service delivery options, the consultant recommended that Greenlink:
- Continue to operate a pulse system, meaning all buses arrive and depart from the Transit Center at the same time, due to the fact that 83% of transfers are occurring cross-town (indicating downtown is an efficient transfer location)
- Continue to operate at the 60-minute frequency, as financial resources do not allow for higher frequency service at this time
- Convert loop routes into bi-directional routes (the bus services both sides of the road) where possible to do so without degrading service
The proposed network is expected to affect Greenlink service in the following ways:
- Bi-directional route miles will increase by 63%
- The service area footprint will be reduced by 7%
- The number of route connections outside of downtown Greenville will increase 50%
Because only 2% of existing Greenlink riders are using the stops in the areas losing service, the proposed network will still serve 98% of existing riders, while vastly improving the operation of routes through bi-directional service and route connections.
Fleet and Facilities
A brief review of Greenlink’s fleet and facilities conducted as a component of the study revealed the following:
- The maintenance facility is undersized for the needs of the Greenlink fleet
- Greenlink’s current preventive maintenance program is adequate for the size of current fleet
- Greenlink has a smaller number of miles between road calls than most agencies, which could indicate the constraints of its aging fleet or operational issues with the maintenance program and facility
The GTA board voted to proceed to public hearings with the COA route recommendations, so next steps include hosting a series of 16 public meetings to present the proposed network and route changes and receive input from Greenville County residents. The public hearings are currently being scheduled for the months of October and November 2017. Concurrently, Greenlink will also begin the process of developing a Transit Development Plan (TDP). While the COA looked at improving the current system without increasing funding, the TDP will look at improvements in the next five years, and the costs associated with implementation, which will include increases in frequency in service, later hours, Sunday service and geographic expansion. The TDP will act as a roadmap for Greenlink’s future.
“Before we can ask for more funding to further improve Greenlink’s service, it’s important to clean up any inefficiencies,” said Gary Shepard, Greenlink’s public transportation director. “Implementing the recommended route changes is phase one. Expanding the system and identifying funding sources for further improvement is phase two.”
To view the entire report, visit http://ridegreenlink.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/9759.
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Marketing & Public Affairs Specialist