StarMetro seeks community input

Local residents had the opportunity to attend one of the three meetings with StarMetro on Monday to discuss the future of Tallahassee’s bus system.

Riders will fill out nearly 500 surveys about the current conditions of the bus routes. Paper surveys were available for residents to fill out during the meeting and online surveys are still available this week for people who were unable to attend.

Most residents were concerned about the bus system’s limited routes and difficult directions.

Even the website, Trip Planner, which riders use to access bus routes and the arrival time of buses, is not considered user-friendly to riders. The website is limited because it only works on a desktop computer.

Ivan Maldonado, StarMetro transit director, said Trip Planner is being worked on so riders can access bus routes via cellphones.

“If you were to look at it now, we have real-time information,” Maldonado said. “It’s a recent upgrade to the Trip Planner software. Most folks probably don’t know that, but we’re currently doing that.”   

An app is being developed to provide riders with real-time information on bus arrivals in their area using the Global Positioning System. The app will be for iOS, but the company is looking into having it available for Androids.

John Mason, Henningson Engineering Company engineering project manager, said the meeting is a way to reach different types of people and hear opinions from the public on the transit system.

“I think we were very aggressive about getting the word out,” Mason said. “We made fliers, and we went door to door in some of the neighborhoods. We decided to get input from the public all throughout the process, not just at the very end to say, ‘Here are our ideas.’ “

Mason said it was surprising to hear some of the comments from residents that so many people wanted to use the transit system but it wasn’t accessible.

Debbie Williams, a current bus rider who lives by Hartsfield Road, said during the meeting that many riders don’t feel safe, and it’s difficult to take a bus going into the city.  

“It’s just for people who are poor or students,” Williams said. “Look at this map. That’s exactly who you got in here – students and the poor neighborhoods like Frenchtown and all the surrounding areas. But the places where I live and the people who are in this room, they’re not on here.”

Because the bus system does not have bus stops in Williams’ area, she has become a driver for other people. Williams owns a big van, so she can drive people around to different destinations.

During the presentation on the Alternative Analysis Project, providing stops with more shelters, pedestrian access and safety improvements were discussed. StarMetro’s staff wrote down all suggestions during the meeting, and large maps that showed current bus routes had notes from residents stating what should be changed.

StarMetro representatives said they are surprised at the turnout they received from residents who aren’t regular riders, but they were glad to see people voicing their opinions.

Mason said the changes that residents are requesting will take time, and StarMetro will look into the ideas that are most feasible. The public meetings will continue with a second meeting in May or June and a third in September.

Residents can complete a survey or seek more information here.