Transportation activist group aims to extend evening ART service

Asheville activist group the people's Voice on Transportation Equality is aiming to extend ART bus service into the evenings in 2016. Photo by Pat Barcas

During a press conference Jan. 26 at the ART bus station on Coxe Avenue, the people’s Voice on Transportation Equality (VOTE) challenged the city to demonstrate its commitment to serving those who depend on public transportation to reach jobs, school and appointments by extending ART bus routes into the evening and by extending routes into areas close to public housing.

“Extending evening service will certainly improve access for people looking to obtain and maintain their jobs,” said Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics, the group which spawned VOTE.  “We absolutely understand this costs money, and we know the bus service is underfunded, but change starts with the will of the people, and they want to see this come to fruition.”

Calvin Allen said he's been pleased so far with city council's cooperation thus far on working with the advocate group's wish list. Photo by Pat Barcas
Calvin Harris said he’s been pleased with City Council’s cooperation thus far on working with the advocate group’s wish list. Photo by Pat Barcas

A 19-item ongoing wish list compiled in 2012 by activist group the People’s Agenda on Transportation listed the now-checked-off Sunday bus service as priority number one. But 2016 brings a new set of challenges as the group advocates for more services for bus riders.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Meath.

The group’s list of demands includes:

  • increased ability to carry groceries on the bus
  • an annual review of bus stop locations
  • reinstatement of a stop at Bartlett Arms and the Overlook Apartments
  • additional shelters and safety barriers
  • an improved complaint system
  • easier to use maps and information for riders
  • public input on the transit master plan
  • improved evening service, which was the second-most pressing priority (after Sunday service) in a 2013 survey conducted by the group

The group conducted another survey specifically focused on evening bus service in fall 2015 in cooperation with Ameena Batada, assistant professor of health and wellness at UNC Asheville. The survey asked 138 area bus riders and nine local employers their opinions. All those surveyed expressed support for extending bus service on certain ART routes. Over 90 percent said extending bus service would help them get to and from work, and about 94 percent said the extension would help them meet basic needs such as getting groceries and health care. About 78 percent of riders said they were in favor of paying a little more on a fare, with similar numbers in support of monthly and yearly fare pass increases.

Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics, said extending bus service will help people obtain and maintain employment.
Vicki Meath, executive director of Just Economics, said extending bus service will help people obtain and maintain employment.

“We knew people would support an extension, we didn’t know it would be that great,” said Batada, who explained that the extension would most likely aim for two to three hours past the current bus run times. Batada said that 56 percent of businesses surveyed reported that the extension would increase the number of customers.

“The city places priority on businesses, so that data is very interesting,” Batada said, and additional research will identify specific routes and times for extending service.

The people’s VOTE meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m. at the United Way building downtown. The next meeting is Feb. 10. For more information on the transportation campaign, click here.

Showing support for the People's Agenda on Transportation. Photo by Pat Barcas
Showing support for the People’s Agenda on Transportation. Photo by Pat Barcas

 

 

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About Pat Barcas
Pat is a photojournalist and writer who moved to Asheville in 2014. He previously worked for a labor and social rights advocacy newspaper in Chicago. Email him at pbarcas@gmail.com. Follow me @pbarcas

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2 thoughts on “Transportation activist group aims to extend evening ART service

  1. ART Rider

    Extending the ART service hours is sorely needed! A big thanks to VOTE for their hard work.

  2. Bruce Bijesse

    No I’m retired, to the I’m lonely comment! Transportation is great for Asheville. Although I’d like to see ART expand down Charlotte Hwy(74-A) Maybe to Cane Creek Rd. or near the Fairview Fire Dept. South/West on Cane Creek Rd. to Hendersonville Rd. and across to the Asheville Airport. Then back to Asheville. All of route’s with designated stops and of course expanding to more Buses. I’d like to see a route if not already to Black Mountain and return the same way as going. Along with Wearverville, Barnardsville and in between. All to bring all of Western NC closer especially with the expansion of what’s going on in Asheville. Maybe a route to Brevard in making travel easier for this region of NC. Maybe stopping at all the College’s along the way. This could bring more jobs besides getting from place to place. Just thinking out loud!

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