AKRON, Ohio — Metro RTA is shifting gears with an eye on the future, making changes to its routes in an effort to better serve its riders.
The new, reimagined network will be designed to bring more frequent service, putting 97% of riders within a quarter mile of a bus stop.
“What we've done is we've taken routes that don't work, and we've taken those resources and we've put them into probably a new number or a new name for a route that kind of goes in that direction, but maybe goes a little bit further,” said CEO Dawn Distler.
Right now, the only frequent service line is the DASH — Akron’s free weekday shuttle service. The line will be dissolving as part of the new plan as the transit agency works to revamp its system.
“The wait times are different," Distler said. "Instead of waiting 45 minutes for a bus, we have some routes that with this new plan, you'll never have to wait more than about 15 minutes for a bus, and that's if you just missed it.”
Some riders that News 5 spoke with said they haven’t heard of the proposed changes, but don’t have many huge complaints about Metro’s service. Others, creatures of habit, are worried the changes might confuse some passengers, particularly older riders.
“People have been taking the same route for a long time and I guess the mix-up would confuse people,” said Dymond Knight of Akron. “Changing the routes and stuff, because people are used to having a system and the consistency, changing that would confuse a lot of people.”
Metro RTA is also focusing on connecting riders to other transit systems to expand the network of public transit in Northeast Ohio. Distler said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the agency to re-evaluate its operations.
Ridership has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, with the transit agency operating at about 75% of capacity since restrictions were lifted. Distler hopes a reimagined network opens more opportunities for riders.
“We are going to go from one route that we have right now that runs every 10 to 15 minutes to five and that those five routes are in the core of the system,” Distler said.
Part of the reason the ridership hasn’t rebounded is the fact that Metro RTA is still dealing with a shortage of operators. What once was a shortfall of roughly 75 operators is now down to about 35, but the hope is with the revamped network it will booster ridership numbers.
Metro RTA is in its third and final set of public comments. Officials will take their final plan to a board meeting in March.
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