Computer simulation results of routes that were considered for implementation will be discussed in this section. Routes considered for implementation included:
The first route considered (Full Town Route) was a one to one and one-half hour route using a single bus which covered all of the main stops in town. The second proposed route (Full Town Two Bus Route) covered most of the same area as the first, but it would use two buses running simultaneously to fully cover the route in 30 minute cycles. The third route (Half Town Route) was a one-hour route using one or two buses, but it covered a more limited area than the first and second routes. The fourth route considered (Circulator Route) was a circulator route that would stop at the major shopping points in town using a single bus and run on a 30 minute cycle. The fifth consideration (Specialized Route) was a hybrid deviated fixed-route where certain days of the week a bus would travel to assigned destinations (i.e. Walmart) at a discount to the riders. The sixth and final route considered for implementation (Flex Route) was another hybrid route which served a fixed-route schedule but allowed for deviations off the scheduled route to accommodate rider needs. All of the above routes are discussed with more detail in the following subsections.
Full Town Route
The Full Town Route (map located in Appendix B) was the first route considered for implementation. Initial steps included geocoding the addresses of passenger residences and paratransit stop locations. The first Full Town Route simulation was run to minimize travel time while stopping at all of the assigned stops. Stops were allocated at various high volume paratransit stops and residential locations. For example, the County Market grocery store and Dewey Apartments have high-volume ridership with the paratransit service and were included as stops on the Full Town Route.
Incorporating every stop on the Full Town Route which are used within the paratransit service would be infeasible and unrealistic. A fixed-route system is designed to stop at high-volume ridership locations to maximize efficiency. Riders may be required to walk a distance to and from their desired locations, but this inferior customer service, when compared to the paratransit service, is offered at a cost discount to riders.
The Full Town Route design was discussed with James River Transit management and drivers. It was found to provide good service to all major areas of town, but it was clumsy to operate with many awkward turns and stops. Also, the route took far too long to cover with an estimated route time of one and a half hours when driven by James River Transit drivers. A major point of discussion with this route and others was whether or not to provide service to the Jamestown State Hospital on the southeast corner of town. Serving the hospital was considered to be inefficient as it took far too long to get to and from the hospital with limited ridership between it and the next scheduled stop. James River Transit employees, along with the research team, felt very few potential riders could use a fixed-route service in order to travel to and from the hospital, due primarily to physical or mental disabilities of patients doctoring at the hospital.
Based on the above analysis, the Full Town Route was found to be an unviable option for Jamestown. The length and awkwardness of the route were the major concerns. The next step would be to break the route down further while considering other options. Utilizing two buses to serve different parts of town was thought to be a better scenario.
Two Bus Route
The Two Bus Route (map located in Appendix B) was a hybrid route based on the Full Town Route discussed previously. A main concern with the Full Town Route was the length of the route resulting in long ride times for users. To solve this problem, the Two Bus Route was developed with one bus serving the north part of the original route and another bus serving the south part. The Jamestown State Hospital was the only major change between the single and two bus routes. The Two Bus Route did not provide service to the State Hospital which was agreed upon through discussion of the Full Town Route.
Initially, the Two Bus Route was well-received. The research team along with James River Transit felt it had real promise to succeed in Jamestown. The main considerations with two buses running fixed-routes in opposite parts of town are the location of a route transfer point and the timing of the routes to facilitate transfers. Any fixed-route system must operate on time to maintain its integrity and to avoid frustration on the part of riders and drivers. Two routes that have to run simultaneously in different parts of town are two to three times more difficult than one as both buses must arrive at their scheduled stops on time and transfers between buses must be coordinated successfully. This is a tough task for any transit organization, let alone one that has never run a fixed-route system.
The only feasible spot to locate the transfer point in Jamestown was thought to be the James River Community Center. It has the most central location of any potential transfer point and many of the riders currently travel to the community center for meals and activities. Also, the buses are garaged at the community center, thereby providing a good spot for the routes to begin in the morning and end in the evening.
The problems with the Two Bus Route were ones of coordination and location. The difficulty in running two buses with the transfer point was too complicated. The likelihood of routinely being off schedule was considered high, especially with the need to load and unload numerous elderly and handicapped riders. Therefore, either one bus running one route, or two buses running the same route was thought to be the best system for Jamestown. The next step was to develop a route that was more efficient. The new route would cover less area, but its path would not decrease potential ridership compared to the first route, and the potential for two buses to run the same route on a half-hour staggered schedule appeared reasonable. Based on these findings, the Half Town Route was developed.
Half Town Route
The Half Town Route (map located in Appendix B) utilizes features of both the Full Town Route and the Two Bus Route. It has a single route to be traveled like the Full Town Route, but it does not serve the southeast part of town or the Jamestown State Hospital, similar to the Two Bus Route. Additionally, all points on this route can be met within the one-hour time frame. The route path that traveled east on 3rd Street Southwest and north on 12th Avenue Northeast in the Full Town Route was also eliminated as it created timing problems. It was also thought to be a 'dead zone' for the route with few riders and stops along those route segments.
At the June 22nd meeting drivers brought up the point of running two buses down the same route and staggering them half an hour apart. Initially, according to the current setup of the route, one bus would leave Gardenette Center II at the top of the hour and the second bus would leave Gardenette Center II at the bottom of the hour. This would stagger the buses perfectly from a timing aspect and double the service of the route to its riders. Also, one bus could begin serving the route initially with another added as previously stated if demand was found sufficient.
The main concern with the Half Town Route was whether or not enough riders were going to be served to warrant the route's existence. Ultimately, this will not be known until the route is running daily, which is characteristic of any new fixed-route. Further research was done to investigate comparable communities which are currently running fixed-route bus systems. It was found that smaller, less complicated circulator routes are a feasible option for towns with similar characteristics to Jamestown. Based on these findings, a circulator route was designed by the research team and presented to James River Transit as another fixed-route option.
The Circulator Route (map located in Appendix B) is essentially a smaller version of the Half Town Route. The Circulator Route is designed to serve the major retail shopping and grocery shopping areas in Jamestown. It travels north from the County Market grocery store, making a full circle serving the downtown area before heading south to the Jamestown Mall and Walmart and KMart area. This route is designed to run in half-hour cycles using one bus.
The main advantages of the Circulator Route are its small, concentrated route and the half-hour running time. The paratransit service would serve as a feeder system to the Circulator Route in bringing riders from their place of residence to one of the stops on the route. Riders would then board the circulator and ride, for a reduced fare, to another stop on the route. They would also have the option of returning, via the circulator route, to where the paratransit service first dropped them off. Riders can then call the paratransit service which would provide a return trip to their homes when they have finished shopping for the full rate, or riders may choose to take the circulator to another point on the fixed-route for a reduced fare.
The Circulator Route would enable riders to save money by doing the bulk of their shopping once or twice a week and using the circulator to get to and from the different shopping sites. Also, riders could use the circulator if they wanted to get from Walmart to Hugos without having to park their vehicle, walk from their parking spot, and deal with traffic. This would be even more helpful in the winter months when walking long distances and starting a vehicle can be an inconvenience. Fargo and Hibbing, MN, are two examples of communities which utilize circulators to move people around highly congested shopping areas, thereby lessening the need for personal automobiles.
The main concerns with the Circulator Route are that current drivers in a small town like Jamestown will not understand or appreciate its function and that current paratransit riders will not be able to use the route on a regular basis. Current riders may want to travel from County Market to Walmart, but if they have many bags of groceries they will be unable to take the groceries with them to Walmart. Proper scheduling, however, would have the rider travel to Walmart first and then take the circulator to County Market, shop and take the paratransit bus home with their groceries. There would be a learning curve involved with any of the fixed-route system option, but the Circulator Route may posses the steepest curve.
The specialized route option was also proposed to James River Transit. James River Transit currently offers service on a shopping bus one night a week which takes riders to a local grocery store at a reduced fare. This same idea could be expanded to serve other high-volume shopping areas throughout Jamestown. For example, once or twice a week service could be offered to Walmart on a shopping bus and to another retailer on a different day at a reduced fare. Riders could then choose which day and at which location they would want to shop, saving them and the transit agency money. This would be the easiest addition to the current service, but it may not provide enough of a benefit to either the riders or James River Transit to warrant serious consideration.
The final route proposed to James River Transit was a Flex Route. The Flex Route (map located in appendix B) would provide fixed-route service at a reduced fare to riders willing to walk to the route's path. However, the route would deviate within a few blocks on either side of its designated route to provide regular paratransit service, at the paratransit fare, to riders. James River Transit saw the Flex Route as the most acceptable proposal to meet its needs. Similar flex routes in Hibbing, MN, and Apple Valley, MN, have been very successful in providing door-to-door along with fixed-route service at the same time.
The Flex Route will start with one bus serving the route and an area within a few blocks of the fixed-route. If needed, another bus may be added to increase service to the ridership. The route will run with one-hour cycles including large time gaps between scheduled stops to allow for deviation as needed.
The main concerns with the Flex Route are that deviations will result in timing inconsistencies for the fixed-route and that riders will be unable to understand the route's functioning and pricing. Initially, it will take more trial and error for the Flex Route to function properly than would a normal fixed-route. Providing training services for potential riders will be even more imperative for a Flex Route compared to other routes as well. However, once the Flex Route passes its preliminary phase, the service it provides should fit the needs of James River Transit successfully.
A main goal of this research was to determine the cost effectiveness of a fixed-route service in Jamestown. The current fare for the James River Transit paratransit service is $2.50 per ride. Local fixed routes in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota range from $1 to $2 per ride. A fare of $1.50 per ride was recommended for Jamestown's fixed route based on these findings.
Analysis was performed to determine savings for James River Transit comparing its current service with one offering paratransit and fixed-route service. Another analysis looked at the cost savings to Jamestown residents. Analyses were based on the assumption that James River Transit would provide 50,000 one-way rides per year (they provided 50,180 in 2000 and 45,100 in 2001). The cost of providing paratransit service would be $6 per ride (their current cost estimate is $5.96 per ride). It was also assumed that the cost of providing a fixed-route ride would be $2.50 per ride. This was based on the cost of providing fixed-route service in Fargo and Minot which are estimated at $2.72 and $2.36 per ride. Finally, based on other local route fares, the fixed-route fare for Jamestown would be $1.50 per ride, and the paratransit fare would be the current $2.50 per ride.
The analysis showed that if just 5 percent of the current riders switched from paratransit to fixed-route, based on the above assumptions, the annual service cost for James River Transit would drop nearly $9,000 from $300,000 to $291,250 (Table 3.1). Furthermore, if 20 percent of the rides switched from paratransit to fixed-route, $35,000 in annual service costs would be saved (Figure 3.20).
Table 3.1 Cost of Providing Service
The senior population of Jamestown (65 and older) grew from 2,633 in 1990 to 2,806 in 2000, a 6.2 percent increase. This trend is projected to continue throughout and beyond the next 5 to 10 years. An aging population leads to an increase in the demand for transportation services, which James River Transit has observed in recent years. Ridership has increased by roughly 12 percent during the past 5 years. Considering a conservative ridership gain of 1 percent per year, ridership would increase from the current estimate of 50,000 rides for 2004 to more than 53,000 rides by 2010 (Table 3.2). Assuming the fixed-route system would handle 20 percent of the total rides and half of the new rides each year, the annual subsidy required for James River Transit will be $158,571 in 2010 with fixed-route service as compared to $185,766 without a fixed-route system. This nearly $30,000 in savings is because the fixed-route service only would be subsidized $1 per ride (revenue $1.50, cost $2.50) while the paratransit service is subsidized $3.50 per ride (revenue $2.50, cost $6.00).
Table 3.2 Annual Subsidy Required with and without Fixed-Route Service
The current annual subsidy required for the James River Transit service was also analyzed (Figure 3.21). Analysis, based once again on the previous assumptions, indicated that if just 5 percent of rides switched from paratransit to fixed-route, the annual subsidy required would be reduced by more than $6,000. Also, if 20 percent of rides switched from paratransit to fixed route, the annual subsidy required for the James River operation would decrease by $25,000. This analysis does not take into account potential riders who do not currently use the paratransit service, but may use a fixed-route system. Jamestown College students are a prime example of potential riders with prospective interest in fixed-route bus transportation.
The savings riders will experience using the fixed-route system is also worth noting. In a survey of James River transit riders, more than 60 percent of respondents indicated their income was less than $10,000 per year and 82 percent indicated there income was less than $15,000 per year. Low-income riders, such as these, could save a large percentage of their income by utilizing a fixed-route system for their transportation needs.
Assume a frequent user of the current paratransit system uses the service three times a week (6 one-way trips). That amounts to more than 300 one-way trips every year if the rider chose to ride the fixed-route system 25 percent of the time (75 one-way rides), they would save between $75 and $115 per year depending on the magnitude of difference between paratransit and fixed-route fares (Table 3.3). A difference of $2.50 to $3 between paratransit fares was assumed for this analysis. The current paratransit fare is $2.50 and $3 is the projected fare for 2005. A savings of $100 a year may not seem substantial, but to someone with an annual income is $10,000, the savings can have a large impact on their way of life. A proportionate savings for a dual-income earning family of $60,000 per year would equal roughly $600 annually, enough to heat the average sized American single-family home for three to four months during a North Dakota winter.
Table 3.3 Cost Savings for Switching to Fixed Route (Fixed-Route Fare $1.50)
James River may decide to offer fixed-route service at a cost of $1 per ride to its customers. This would offer an even greater cost savings to riders. A rider paying for 300 annual trips who switches 25 percent of those trips to the fixed-route system from paratransit would save between $113 and $150 per year (Table 3.4).
Table 3.4 Cost Savings for Switching to Fixed Route (Fixed-Route Fare #1)
Numerous fixed-route options along with cost evaluations were presented to James River Transit. The cost savings will aid James River Transit in moving towards a more efficient public transit system. The fare reduction with the addition of a fixed-route system will also save the riders' income to spend on other necessities. Start-up costs do apply with training, signage, etc., but will not require an additional bus purchase as paratransit vehicles already in James River's fleet will be used to run the fixed route initially. Ridership may take some time to meet projections for the fixed route. The campus circulator at North Dakota State University, for example, took two years before its ridership reached expectations. The following discussion will present conclusions and recommendations based on the research and findings of the study.