The annual Strive Not to Drive campaign kicked off May 11 with a presentation on upcoming changes to the Asheville Transit System, including new routes and schedules designed to make riding the bus more convenient.
Starting in late June, buses will be available to pick up passengers along the most popular routes in 30 minute intervals (instead of the current 60 minute intervals). The system also plans to close the gap between day and evening service, build several new shelters, and launch a new marketing campaign to increase ridership, among other changes, according to Mariate Echeverry, Transportation Planning Manager.
In addition, the city hopes to improve safety by changing routes to avoid shopping malls and other high traffic areas, she said. The final plans are still being worked out, and will be the result of extensive collaboration between city officials, bus drivers and the public, she said. Starting in June, the name of the system will officially change from ATS to ART (Asheville Redefines Transit).
The changes are the first step towards implementing the city’s Transit Master Plan, which calls for additional improvements such as Sunday service. Those improvements will have to wait until more funding is available, however, explained Echeverry.
Meanwhile, the city is planning to solicit proposals from new companies to manage the system.
The city’s transit infrastructure is currently being managed by First Transit, Inc, which is paid about $130,000 a year to perform duties that include maintaining vehicles and hiring and supervising drivers. Asheville is required by law to use a management company for day-to-day transit operations.
Local networking group Asheville Green Drinks hosted the transit presentation at Posana Cafe in downtown Asheville.
The Strive Not to Drive campaign includes more than a week of events designed to boost awareness of transportation issues and get people walking, biking, carpooling and bussing. The full schedule is available here.