This coming Tuesday, Jan. 14, a group of transit riders and citizens will assemble in Pack Square to call for an overhaul of the city’s system that “prioritizes the needs of the people who use public transit out of necessity.” The group has a 19-point plan to improve transit services and make the management of the system more representative of its ridership.
The rally will take place at 3 p.m. in front of City Hall, just before the meetings of the Transit Committee (to whom the group will present the plan) and Asheville City Council.
The group, predominantly made of non-elective riders who rely on the bus for transportation, emerged from Just Economics’ Voices for Economic Justice Leadership Training Program. The classes help train low-wage workers and low-income people to organize around addressing their needs.
“Many of them had concerns about the changes that ART had implemented,” says Vicki Meath, Just Economics’ executive director.. “They spent a year researching, talking to their community, talking to city staff and the transit committee and conducting a survey to come up with this agenda.”
She says that going forward, the group hopes to work with Council and the city committees to get funding for a number of the agenda items in the coming year, she says.
The plan, dubbed the People’s Agenda for Transportation Reform, calls for Sunday and late-night service in the coming years to better serve those who rely on transit to get to their jobs; the return of canceled routes; requiring half or majority representation of non-elective riders on city committees (and that the membership of those committees “proportionately reflects the income and racial diversity of the ridership”); an improved complaint process; more transparency and oversight of the system; improved safety; and the reinstatement of stops in specific areas to better serve the elderly and residents of public housing, among other items.
The full agenda and statement are below:
We are a group of concerned Asheville area residents, emerging from Just Economics of WNC’s Voices for Economic Justice Leadership Training Program.
Our mission is to ensure that everyone’s voice is included in redefining transit in Asheville.
Our focus is on:
• making sure there is proper representation in decision-making from non-elective riders,
• making sure that planning prioritizes the needs of the people who use public transit out of necessity,
• advocating for equality in terms of a clean and safe bus system including bus stops,
• supporting policies that are consistent, courteous, transparent and hold everyone mutually accountable,
and encouraging route reform focusing on the most efficient access for non-elective riders to meet their basic needs and get to and from work.
Our Specific Agenda includes:
1. Begin Full Sunday Service by the end of 2014.
2. Work with the Ridership Committee to identify priorities for later night bus service. Extend worker essential routes to 10 p.m. by the end of 2014. Prioritize and extend service to major corridors until midnight by the end of 2015. Enact creative solutions to transportation barriers for low-income workers by the end of 2016 to maximize worker transportation coverage.
Suggested Approach: Work to extend the Passport Program to offset costs of later night bus service for workers. Also, actively engage ridership committee to come up with creative community solutions through public/private partnerships, such as cab fare scholarships for service workers getting off shifts outside of the bus schedule.
3. Ensure the proper representation of necessity riders in planning and implementation of the transit plan for Asheville by requiring that the Transit Committee is made up of at least 50% of non-elective riders and proportionately reflects the income and racial diversity of the ridership.
4. Ensure proper representation in decision making by electing a Transit Committee member who rides the bus out of necessity as at least 2 of the 3 voting members of the Multi-Modal Commission.
5. Establish a Ridership Subcommittee to inform the Transit Committee of the needs of the riders, and elect at least one Transit Committee member to act as a liaison between the Ridership Subcommittee and the Transit Committee. Suggested Approach: Utilize community partners with experience creating diverse and inclusive environments, such as Just Economics through the People’s Voice on Transportation Equality, to act as a vehicle for a ridership committee.
6. Increase the capacity of bus riders to carry groceries on the bus. Suggested Approach: Eliminate any policy that limits grocery bags. Retrofit buses with shelves, compartments or areas for people to store groceries while on the bus. Work with community partners including the Food Policy Council to provide creative solutions to carrying groceries on the bus, such as special carts, etc.
7. Review stop locations at least annually. Stops should be moved, created, or reinstated based on community input, survey data, and documented complaints.
8. In 2014, reinstate the stops at Bartlett Arms/Overlook Apartments, Deaverview Apartments, Erksine Apartments, Oak Knoll/Ledgewood Apartments, and Woodridge Apartments so that people who are elderly/disabled do no face added hardship.
9. Prioritize additional areas of service based on the need for transportation to work, school, and basic necessities with input and review from the Ridership Committee.
10. Provide clear, easy to understand information easily accessible to all bus riders regarding routes and bus stop times. Work with the Ridership Committee to create understandable maps and materials. Create one printed comprehensive day/night schedule. Suggested Approach: Provide bus schedules at all bus stops and on all buses, perhaps weather proof booklets attached to the bus stop sign.
11. Prioritize addressing the C route, either adding a bus to the C route to accomplish the intended results of having a Crosstown bus or eliminating the C route and extending/improving the rest of the systems to meet the needs the C route was intending to meet. Work on making the C route accessible in terms of transferring from C to other bus routes.
Develop a policy and evaluation of stop and shelter maintenance that reflects equity so that all stops and shelters are receiving the same amount of upkeep regardless of neighborhood.
Suggested Approach: Work with community partners to establish equitable maintenance schedule.
12. Develop a publicly accessible plan for creating and prioritizing additional bus shelters and safety barriers.
Suggested Approach: Include community input including the most recent survey into the plan based on the greatest need for shelters and safety barriers. Work with community partners such as the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, the Design Center, and Green Opportunities to build new shelters locally. Further develop public/private partnerships with businesses that help to build or provide shelters near their location.
13. Improve accountability by the complaint system: accessible through multiple methods, transparent, and gives a clear and timely response. Suggested Approach:
Accessible: Ensure that bus riders are informed of how to make a complaint. The complaint policy should be posted on all buses, in all print materials, and complaints can be made through multiple forms. Make sure that written and verbal complaints are available options (often times complaint cards are not available at the transit center).
Transparent: Appoint a point person who deals with complaints/response (should be a part of their job description). All complaints should be documented and that documentation should be accessible to the public. Reponses should be consistent (currently, those making complaints through iride receive a response and those made through other forms do not often receive a response).
Clear and Timely: All complaints are documented (a complaint number should be assigned to the complaint when it is made and the number given to the complaintant). Each complaint responded by the next business day (“we have received your complaint, here is your complaint number”). ART reports each complaint to the proper place (Drivers’ Union, Transit Committee, etc.). Document Actions Taken to resolve the complaint (filed under the complaint number). Contact person who made the complaint to alert them of actions taken. Conduct a satisfaction survey with each person who made a complaint. Results of satisfaction surveys reported to proper group.
14. Require all Transit Committee members to ride at least 12 of the 16 routes within a year’s time.
15. Review all policies to ensure that they are in the best interest of the drivers, riders, and overall system. Make all policies transparent and available to all the systems users. Develop an accountability system for dealing with policies that are not followed.
Suggested Approach: Place a list of policies on the bus or at the bus stops and provide a consistent and transparent way for riders and drivers to handle situations when policies are not being followed.
16. Ensure transparency and public participation in further development of this community asset by keeping up to date information and notes from public meetings regarding transit available on the website with clearly defined expectation about when information will be available. Suggested Approach: Establish guidelines for transparency such as the notes from each transit committee meeting will be posted to the website no later than 2 weeks after the meeting.
17. Develop an emergency response plan to notify bus riders of schedule changes due to emergencies and provide a replacement bus within the next time the bus should leave from the ART station if the current bus is rendered out of service.
Suggested Approach: Provide a phone number at each bus stop for riders to call to see if what has happened to their bus if it is more than 10 minutes late. Expand new phone app to those without smart phones through text and other means. Provide Kiosks at the bus station and perhaps a few key bus stops for users without a smart phone to look up changes and delays.
18. Work with the People’s Voice on Transportation Equality or the Ridership Committee to ensure that the priorities of the Transit Master Plan are consistent with the results of the latest rider survey and the on-going needs of the ridership.
19. Develop a review system with public oversight for the Management company to ensure that it is consistently acting in the best interest of the drivers, riders, and the City of Asheville and following best practices.