Group to study transit system
WILMAPCO looking for ways to improve bus routes
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.
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.