SMTC’s Plan for Better Bus Service

On November 2, the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council held its final public information session about the SMART1 study. That study looks at the possibility of improving bus service along specific corridors in the Syracuse metropolitan area. It is the first of multiple planned studies that will recommend specific service improvements to Centro based on the Syracuse Transit System Analysis that SMTC produced as a supplement to NYSDOT’s work on I-81.

The SMART1 study focuses on bus service from Eastwood to OCC and from the train station to SU–these are two of the six high-priority transit corridors identified in the STSA. For each corridor, the SMTC analyzed low, medium, and high levels of improvement. The low level increases the number of buses running along existing routes, builds new shelters at the bus stops, and gives buses priority at traffic lights. The medium level runs even more buses along new routes in the corridor, removes some bus stops, builds new shelters at the remaining bus stops, and buys new buses. The high level does everything that the medium level does, but it also puts in bus lanes where streets are wide enough to accommodate them.

For both corridors, SMTC recommends that Centro build the medium level of improvement. That means buses running every 10 to 15 minutes along James St/South Ave, and along Salina St through downtown to SU. It means no transfer for people riding either route crosstown. It means new buses and shorter travel times. That’s all good.

It’s also good that the SMTC hasn’t recommended the high level of improvement. In order to build bus lanes between SU and the train station, Centro would have to run the new bus route along Solar St instead of N Salina St. That’d cut down on travel times, but it would send the bus through a bunch of planned and existing luxury apartment complexes instead of through the Northside. Given that choice, it’s better that the bus run through a neighborhood where it’s needed, even if that means it has to deal with some traffic.

Now it’s up to Centro to act on these recommendations. It’ll require a lot scheduling of work–the SMTC’s recommendations don’t go into details like when the buses should actually run, how these new routes will connect with existing routes, or what should happen to minor routes like the 21 or 28 that run through these corridors but serve other neighborhoods too. It’ll require a lot of cooperation–some of these improvements, like priority at traffic lights, can only come if Centro works with City Hall to make them happen. It’ll require a lot of money–those new buses and bus shelters will cost money up front, and Centro will have to hire more drivers and pay for more repairs if it’s going to offer more frequent service. Those are all steep hills to climb, but they’re well worth climbing. Call Centro and tell them you want these changes. Call City Hall and tell them you want them to help Centro make these changes. Call your state reps and tell them you want the State to help pay for these changes.

Centro:
315-442-3400
CEO@centro.org

Mayor Stephanie Miner:
315-448-8005
Mayor@syrgov.net

Common Council:
Councilors’ Contact details are available here

Senator John DeFrancisco:
315-428-7632
jdefranc@nysenate.gov

Senator Dave Valeski:
315-478-8745
valesky@nysenate.gov

Assemblymember Bill Magnarelli:
315-428-9651
MagnarW@nysassembly.gov

Assemblymember Pam Hunter:
315-449-9536
HunterP@nysassembly.gov