Group to study tran­sit sys­tem

WILMAPCO look­ing for ways to im­prove bus routes

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

When Heather Du­ni­gan looks at Newark, she sees a town that should be ripe for a strong pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem.

Four bus sys­tems con­verge in Newark, the city has a dense em­ploy­ment base and there’s a charge for park­ing down­town, a fac­tor that could en­cour­age peo­ple

to take pub­lic tran­sit rather than drive.

“We have all the in­gre­di­ents for good tran­sit use,” said Du­ni­gan, prin­ci­pal plan­ner for the Wilm­ing­ton Area Plan­ning Coun­cil (WILMAPCO).

De­spite that, Newark’s rate of tran­sit use re­mains dis­mal, with only 4.4 per­cent of com­muters us­ing pub­lic tran­sit, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau. In com­par­i­son, Wilm­ing­ton’s tran­sit use is 12.8 per­cent.

“We’d like to see why that is and how we can make it bet­ter,” Du­ni­gan said.

That’s the goal be­hind the re­cently formed Newark Tran­sit Im­prove­ment Part­ner­ship (Newark TrIP), which is made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from WILMAPCO and the four tran­sit providers in Newark – DART First State, the city of Newark’s Unic­ity ser­vice, the Uni­ver­sity of Delaware and Ce­cil Tran- sit.

Last month, the group kicked off a nine-month study of pub­lic tran­sit in the greater Newark area. The $75,000 study, con­ducted by an out­side con­sul­tant, will look at ways to make the bus sys­tems more ef­fi­cient and de­ter­mine what changes can be made to ex­tend pub­lic tran­sit to un­der­served ar­eas.

DART, the statewide bus sys­tem, has sev­eral routes

in Newark, and Unic­ity is a free ser­vice with lim­ited hours and routes around the city. UD has an elab­o­rate bus sys­tem, but it is re­stricted to stu­dents and staff.

Mean­while, Ce­cil Tran­sit op­er­ates three bus routes that con­nect the greater Newark area to Ce­cil County Md., – one loop that in­cludes mul­ti­ple stops in Elk­ton, Glas­gow and down­town Newark, an­other that runs be­tween Elk­ton and Peo­ples Plaza and the new­est, which runs be­tween the train sta­tions in Newark and Per­ryville.

Du­ni­gan said it’s un­likely the study will rec­om­mend com­bin­ing the ser­vices, but one goal could be de­vel­op­ing a sin­gle fare card that could be used for mul­ti­ple tran­sit ser­vices.

WILMAPCO would also like to find a way to bet­ter in­te­grate UD’s bus sys­tem with other tran­sit op­tions, though Du­ni­gan ac­knowl­edged that presents “in­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges.”

An­other idea is to find

ways to pro­mote the tran­sit sys­tem to UD stu­dents in an at­tempt to dis­cour­age them from bring­ing cars to cam­pus.

Later this month, WILMAPCO will re­lease an on­line sur­vey to gather opin­ions from Newark res­i­dents about pub­lic tran­sit. The group also plans to sur­vey rid­ers in per­son at the Newark Tran­sit Hub, talk to lo­cal busi­ness own­ers and in­ter­view bus driv­ers.

Early next year, the con­sul­tant will present its rec­om­men­da­tions and then hold pub­lic workshops to dis­cuss the pro­posed

changes. Then, it will be up to each tran­sit ser­vice to de­cide whether to im­ple­ment the pro­pos­als, Du­ni­gan said.

“Our hope is we can come up with things our pub­lic tran­sit part­ners will be ex­cited to im­ple­ment,” Du­ni­gan said. “There prob­a­bly will be some com­pro­mise.”

A pre­vi­ous sur­vey found that most Ne­wark­ers have lit­tle knowl­edge of the pub­lic tran­sit sys­tems, she said.

“Even if we come out of this with peo­ple more away of their op­tions, that will be an im­prove­ment,” Du­ni­gan said.

NEWARK POST FILE PHOTO

Ce­cil Tran­sit, which al­ready had a route that in­cludes a stop on Newark’s Main Street, re­cently be­gan a new bus route be­tween the Newark Train Sta­tion and the Per­ryville Train Sta­tion.

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