UNICITY bus to fill gaps in DART route

Newark Post - - Local News - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

At the end of the sum­mer, a UNICITY bus will start pick­ing up rid­ers around the Fair­field area who have been us­ing a spe­cial DART shut­tle to get to the Ne­wark Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing, where they hop on a reg­u­lar bus to Wilm­ing­ton.

The change comes as DART pre­pares to com­pletely phase out that part of the Ne­wark route.

Called “Ne­wark Ex­press,” Route 16 used to pick up rid­ers along Stam­ford Drive, Cam­bridge Drive, New Lon­don Road, Coun­try Club Drive, Casho Mill Road, Lafayette Road, Dal­lam Road and Ap­ple Road be­fore stop­ping at the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing on South Main Street and even­tu­ally head­ing to down­town Wilm­ing­ton.

How­ever, in June, DART sus­pended Route 16 ser­vice to those res­i­den­tial stops due to low rid­er­ship and in­stead started pick­ing up rid­ers at the Ne­wark Tran­sit Hub off Main Street. From there, buses headed to the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing, the Ne­wark Train Sta­tion, the Park & Ride on South Col­lege Av­enue and fi­nally to Wilm­ing­ton.

Since the change, rid­ers who de­pended on the north­ern sec­tion of the route have been board­ing a spe­cial shut­tle called the “16 Con­nect” that con­nects them to the stop at the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing. DART has been of­fer­ing the shut­tle as a cour­tesy un­til Sept. 2 in or­der to give the city of Ne­wark time to come up with its own so­lu­tion.

Last week, coun­cil de­cided to tem­po­rar­ily add the stops to the ex­ist­ing UNICITY bus sys­tem, which is a free ser­vice pro­vide by the city and the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware with fund­ing as­sis­tance from the state. It will cost the city $6,332 in per­son­nel and $500 in fuel to pick up rid­ers in the Fair­field area from Septem­ber through the end of the year, at which point coun­cil will de­cide whether or not to ex­tend the ser­vice.

City Man­ager Carol Houck told coun­cil on Aug. 8 that there is enough money in the city’s bud­get to pay for the ad­di­tional stops.

“I think we can fund it through the end of the year,” Houck said. “If we have a ma­jor break­down of a bus, that could put us over.”

But res­i­dent Natasha Ortega, who has been rid­ing the DART bus into Wilm­ing­ton for al­most 10 years, said ac­com- mo­dat­ing Fair­field res­i­dents doesn’t need to cost the city any­thing. She said rid­ers are will­ing to car­pool to the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in or­der to catch the bus there, but they need a place to park.

She asked the city to tem­po­rar­ily des­ig­nate three park­ing spa­ces for DART rid­ers, or work with nearby prop­erty own­ers like the Park N Shop across the street for ex­tra park­ing. That way, the city won’t need to spend the $7,000 to use UNICITY, she said.

“I’m all about sav­ing money as long as we’re all work­ing to­gether,” Ortega said.

She said city of­fi­cials can work on a more per­ma­nent so­lu­tion in the mean­time.

“This will buy us some time to work on this,” she said.

Coun­cil­man Luke Chap­man, whose dis­trict en­com­passes the Fair­field area, sug­gested coun­cil do both – di­rect staff to al­lo­cate the funds to UNICITY through the end of the year and also pur­sue the car­pool­ing spots at Park N Shop or the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing. Coun­cil in­for­mally agreed.

On Tues­day, Houck said city staff and UNICITY of­fi­cials are still work­ing on fi­nal­iz­ing a sched­ule for the new stops.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY KARIE SIM­MONS

A Route 16 DART bus stop at the Fair­field Shop­ping Cen­ter show­ing the new sched­ule for the “16 con­nect” shut­tle to the Ne­wark Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing. DART will dis­con­tinue the shut­tle Sept. 2, at which point the UNICITY bus will take over.

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