Johnson City Transit surveying hundreds of passengers to improve operations

Zach Vance • Updated Sep 20, 2017 at 11:47 PM

Like many riders, Johnson City Transit is 66-year-old David Gray’s only source of transportation.

Living near North Roan Street, Gray relies on the city transit system for all his transportation needs, such as doctor appointments and grocery store visits.

With years of experience riding the bus, Gray is exactly the type of passenger Johnson City Transit officials want suggestions from this week.

Beginning Monday, more than a half-dozen surveyors with iPads in hand have accompanied Johnson City Transit passengers along the system’s 15 routes, gathering data for a comprehensive operational analysis.

Although it’s not state-mandated, Johnson City Transit officials hope the analysis will reveal current and potential rider usage, as well as ways to improve the service.

By Wednesday afternoon, officials estimated 750 different passengers had been surveyed, both online and through paper submissions.

In addition to its being Free Ride Week, those surveyed were rewarded with a voucher for 10 free rides, which could be redeemed at the bus station in downtown Johnson City.

To complete the analysis, transportation planner Mary Butler said AECOM, a multinational engineering firm, was contracted for approximately $122,000 to execute the surveys, compile the data and provide recommendations on improvements.

“We’re trying to get a profile of the riders and where they’re coming from and going so we can get a sense of whether the services (Johnson City Transit) is providing matches up with that,” said Jim McAteer, president of Transit Insight, who is leading the surveying and analysis.

“It’s also an opportunity for JCT to get a customer service survey out there. So while we’re also getting the data, we can also ask them what are things they’d like to see.”

A few of the things Gray wants to see are more new buses and free rides for senior citizens and disabled passengers, instead of the current 50-cent charge.

Arla Ferguson, a Silver Route rider of nine years, rides the bus about 20 minutes to the bus station and then waits 30 minutes at the bus station to catch the Red 15 Till bus route.

“It doesn’t bother me. It’s interesting getting to meet a lot of people,” Ferguson said.

“I don’t have a driver’s license so the bus keeps me out of legal trouble. I don’t have a car. They’re always prompt. You can always depend on them. They’re courteous to help with where you’re going. ... I just think we’re blessed here in Johnson City to have the transit.”

When asked what she’s like to see, Ferguson proposed increasing the number of evening routes, which would take her home from work on certain days instead of walking two hours.

Johnson City Transit does offer two evening buses, one on the north end and one of the west end, Monday through Friday, which Ferguson said she just recently learned about.

With a goal of obtaining at least 300 surveys, McAteer said he was impressed by how Johnson City Transit riders were so engaged with the process.

The entire undertaking began in late May after the Johnson City Transit earned the Johnson City Commission’s approval for funding the analysis. Butler said the entire analysis, along with recommendations, should be completed around December or at the beginning of 2018.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for the Johnson City Transit, the survey’s online version can be completed by visiting goo.gl/XbpLK3

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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