RTA gathering data for strategic plan

Exploring how to make what people consider a good service even better

By Mark Reaman

As part of the drafting of a five-year strategic plan for the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), the consulting firm Fehr and Peers that is compiling the data for the plan will be taking summer public feedback until July 28. The hope is to have a final plan before the RTA board of directors by the end of the year. The consultants had spent some time last ski season collecting data as well.

Mikhail Kaminer of Fehr and Peers gave a report to the RTA board at their meeting on Friday, June 28, sharing some comments they’ve heard and indicating some potential direction for the RTA strategic plan. 

So far this summer, 456 survey responses have been collected. Just under half came from people riding the bus at the time and many of the surveys contained positive general comments about the RTA. 

Last winter, survey results indicated about half the trips on the RTA were used to get to work while 37% were used for recreation. The rest were for things like getting to the grocery or appointments. About a quarter of those surveyed last winter used the RTA at least once a week while another 25% used it at least four times a week. 

Compared to data collection in 2016, Kaminer said Crested Butte South has a much denser population, there are fewer people 65 years old and older in Gunnison, the highest commuter transit use originates in Gunnison and about 20% of some of the demographic groups living in Gunnison regularly use the RTA to get to work.

Looking at the early data, 84% of the people using the RTA who took the survey rely on the free buses for at least some of their transportation needs. The surveys showed high marks for service satisfaction and people appreciate that it is free. As far as dissatisfaction markers, bus stop locations, the helpfulness of the app and frequency of service rose to the top but none garnered more than a 10% dissatisfaction rate.

“People want to keep it free and convenient,” said Kaminer. 

At the request of board members, the consultants changed the terminology of some of the survey questions to make them prioritize the things they wanted most from the RTA in the future instead of just asking generally what they’d like to see. 

Kaminer said riders and stakeholders want to expand service to new developments and participate in first and last mile transit scenarios. Improving the safety of accessing some of the bus stops, such as on Highway 135 near Crested Butte, was also a desire. Western Colorado University students and some in the Spanish speaking community suggested the RTA could do a better job with education and communication about its services.

The consultants are looking at suggesting ways the RTA might be able to adjust some of the seasonal schedules for expanded service hours during peak season; may advise establishing commuter micro-transit zones (on-demand type transit service) in both Gunnison and CB South; and look for ways to better enhance the app and website. As for capital projects, upgrading the bus stops is a priority as is establishing a main Gunnison bus stop/office space. Helping to provide more park-and-ride locations such as near CB South and Brush Creek was also a priority. In the future, a Gunnison circulator bus might fill a need, and helping to provide things like shared bikes and scooters to help people get to bus stops was a possibility.

RTA board chair Janet Farmer said a common complaint she hears is that riding the bus from Mt. Crested Butte to Gunnison would be better if there was no stop in CB South, essentially providing service that included the old “express bus” option. Kaminer said that is why they are looking at finding ways to provide some supplemental first and last mile service like an on-demand service in Gunnison or CB South that picks up people at their home and drops them at a bus stop. “With that there could be a bus stop for CB South that is closer to the highway and by using effective ways to get people to that bus stop could help,” he said.

Fehr and Peers will continue to gather feedback until the end of July. Aside from taking surveys from people on the bus, they are meeting with other stakeholders, the local municipalities are reviewing the draft projects, online surveys are still being accepted and the consultants are meeting with focus groups and holding community open houses at both ends of the valley. Surveys can be found on the RTA website (gunnisonvalleyrta.com).

“You have done a good job of getting a representative sample of the overall community. It really reflects the community,” said RTA board member Laura Puckett Daniels.

Kaminer said after the data is collected, they will work on drafting a final plan with details and bring it to the board to review in late fall with the hope that a final plan can be approved before the end of the year.

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