Akron Metro Pondering Service Restructuring

Akron Metro wants to make changes. For the past month it has been holding public hearings and soliciting comments on its website as part of its Drive Forward campaign that is expected to result in changes to bus schedules and routes.

The transit agency has said that its guiding principles include matching service to modern travel patterns, strengthening its network structure, simplifying routes, fostering a transit-first lifestyle, and building financial stability.

Akron Metro 3Metro said its current route network is built to serve commuting patterns of the past. Its challenge is to realign routes to go where the greatest number of transit users live and work.

The last major route restructuring occurred in the late 1990s and Metro said many people and jobs have moved since then.

A 2013 study determined that 53 percent of Metro riders travel to and from work, which is significantly less than most transit systems.

“Therefore, we need to tailor our service to more than just work,” Metro said in a presentation. “Metro provides basic mobility for school, shopping, medical, and many other trip purposes.

Although 76 percent of businesses in Akron are within a quarter-mile of a Metro route, the transit agency’s radial-oriented route network creates difficulties for those wishing to travel across town or from one neighborhood to another.

Traditionally, Metro routes have been oriented to serving downtown Akron, but now Metro is seeking to create connections outside of downtown.

It is eyeing a grid network that it labels an “everywhere to everywhere model.” It will result in more transfers being needed for riders but also more frequent service with faster travel times.

As for simplifying its routes, Metro is considering adopting a clockface schedule that will provide a regular and consistent schedule, such as every half hour.

The current schedule has more frequencies grouped during certain periods of the day and Metro said it is difficult for casual or first-time users to understand.

Some routes also have as many as four different patterns. Metro is proposing replacing this with fixed routes that would not vary depending on the time, the day or the trip.

Increasing service is a key to encouraging a transit-oriented lifestyle. Metro noted that nowhere in Summit County does it provide frequent service seven days a week.

Metro also acknowledged that its fare box recovery lags the average for similar transit systems. Whereas Metro recovers 11.1 percent of its expenses at the fare box, its peer system average is 19.4 percent.

Related to improving its financial position is boosting ridership. In 2015, Metro ridership was nearly 400,000 rides below 2008 when it imposed a series of service cuts.

Although Metro has increased the service hours of its buses by 22 percent since 2005, ridership has not responded in kind.

In 2014, Metro had 5.2 million line service rides, but that fell to 5 million last year. The peak was 5.4 million in 2008.

Comments about how Metro’s service should be restructured can be left at its website at:

http://www.akronmetro.org/driving-forward.aspx

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