During the Spring of 2017, Centro asked its riders about how the bus fits into their lives. SMTC published the results of that survey in June. There’s a lot of good stuff in the final report, but the overriding finding is that there’s major support for putting more buses on the streets at all hours of the day.
You find this in riders’ habits. When asked to list “the 3 destinations that you travel to the most using Centro,” people named places like the Mall, Downtown, and the University that already have good frequent service.
You also find this in riders’ responses to direct questions. When asked “Do you have additional suggestions for improving the Centro system?” people said they want shorter wait times and more service on nights and weekends:
“The single biggest issue was frequency of bus service and the length of time riders spend waiting for buses. Of the 388 surveys that included some kind of service improvement recommendation, 105 indicated this as an issue. Service at night and on weekends and holidays also came up frequently; 74 respondents included this concern.”
Riders also provided a whole list of other places in the City where they’d like for that service to run. When asked “are there specific locations that you wish Centro would serve,” riders listed “a variety of destinations” that they want for “Centro to serve, or serve more often”:
“Several destinations in the city were mentioned repeatedly, with Midland Avenue identified more than any other street in the city as needing upgraded service. Service to Strathmore was also identified as being needed. Other general destinations in the city included James Street, Grant Boulevard / the north side, Valley Drive, Midler Avenue, and the Westcott neighborhood.”
When riders are already using what frequent service exists, they’re saying that they want more of it, and they have a list of places where they’d like for it to go, it makes a lot of sense to start building out that service to those places.
So it’s a good thing that SMTC and Centro are already working on it. Building on the Syracuse Transit System Analysis, SMTC has already recommended that Centro run frequent service on two major crosstown bus lines that connect several of the places where people are asking for better service.
These recommendations are a good first step. Centro needs to take them, and we all need to push the City’s political representatives to pay for them.
SMTC should also take a few more steps by making similar recommendations for the remaining “transit improvement corridors” identified in the STSA. Then, Centro and the City’s governments should find a way to act on those recommendations too.
The City has to get past this point where people’s lives are limited by their transportation options. Centro’s survey found that 80 percent of riders do not have access to a car, but “roughly half [of riders] said they use Centro only for a single purpose.” That means there are plenty of people who need the bus to get around the City for all kinds of reasons, but who can only use the service we’ve got now to make one kind of trip. That means limited opportunities for schooling, or working, or shopping, or worshipping, or whatever else it is that a person might need to travel outside of their immediate neighborhood to do. This survey is another reminder of those limitations, and it’s a call for the City to remove them.