Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cherriots to Consider Funding for Evenings and Weekends; Flex Transit in West Salem

The Cherriots Board meets tonight and on the agenda are several interesting items, including the prospect of weekend and evening service.

As part of the system realignment, Cherriots and the consultant team identified a set of services for phase two:
Phase II builds on Phase I by adding evening, weekend, and holiday service. Evening service would include service past 9:00 PM with the last bus pullout at the downtown transit center occurring at 11:00 PM. Weekend service would include Saturday and Sunday service as well as service on the following holidays: Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. There will continue to be no service on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Phase II would also allow for the incorporation of a downtown circulator and the reinstatement of the student bus pass program for middle and high school students.
Lots of things to like there!

But of course they aren't free.

 So Cherriots is considering a tax measure for the May 19th election of this year.

At the board meeting Cherriots will consider going to the voters for one of these:
  • Property Tax Levy: $0.58 per $1,000 of assessed value
  • Payroll Tax: 0.21% of annual payroll
Either one would add to the existing tax of "$0.76 per $1,000 of assessed value of property," which is "the District’s permanent tax rate."

Key to this is getting business interests on board, and on January 8th Cherriots presented the concepts to the Chamber of Commerce, which themselves met on the 21st to consider the question. In the information packet, Cherriots did not publish or know of the Chamber's recommendation.

It'll be interesting to learn more. Deciding now for a May election date seems like a pretty compressed time frame, and it wouldn't be surprising to see it pushed out.

Flexible Transit to Pilot in West Salem

This summer Cherriots will start the pilot program for a kind of on-demand transit.

Live near the yellow? You'll be able to hail a bus with a phone!
The flexible transit pilot project will ask customers to use a smart-phone app or browser interface to hail a bus. You won't be able to walk to a bus stop and count on one coming by; you'll need instead to make a reservation.

Vans, not full-sized buses, would be used
Details aren't all out, but it also sounds like the service will in a strange way be free. It looks like the "flex buses," smaller bus/van units like the Cherry Life uses, may not be set up for fare collection, so if you're not using a pass, it seems you'll pay when you transfer to one of the fixed route buses that's actually going to get you somewhere meaningful. The flexible transit is a neighborhood feeder only, it seems.

More details will come out. And it will be very interesting to see how easy and convenient it is for folks.

Look for that to launch this summer.

Legislative Agendas

Finally, the Federal Legislative agenda is out and it includes:
  • $2.4 million for bus replacement
  • $2 million for the South Salem Transit Center
  • $1.5 million for a computer system for real-time data tracking and analysis
The State agenda includes a request for ConnectOregon to jump from $42 million to $100 million and to continue to serve the full suite of modes.

The Board meets tonight, Thursday the 22nd, at 6:30pm in Courthouse Square, Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St NE.

(For more on Cherriots, including the development of the Flexible Transit concept, see all notes here.)


The discussion of Flexible Transit's a bit thin, a few have pointed out by email, so here's more. Sorry about that.

Proposed Flex Stops
Though it would operate on a "ride-hailing" system, it would also depend on actual stops, which you can see on the map. So you hail a "Flex Bus" for your nearest "Flex Stop," not for your doorstep.

The service frequency is envisioned at every half-hour - or maybe a better way is to say a hour-hour wait or window.

The annual cost would be about $200,000. This is, of course, considerably less than the $15 million "stupid" level of service I swagged earlier.

But in the presentation slides, a "successful" level of service would be apparently only three to five boardings per hour. That's a paltry scale, and is not serving commuters, but rather serves a small slice of people who are likely more transit dependent than with cars and other means to choose.

There may be a significant tension, even mismatch, here between people who would use the service, and people with smart phones and the right apps.

All in all, the project is filling in the cracks, providing mobility of last resort, not creating new structures of mobility.