TARTA reports increased ridership, announces new technologyWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After announcing an increase in ridership for the previous year, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) recently announced several new initiatives planned for 2013.
TARTA reported that its number of adult and senior riders increased by 8 percent last year. Additionally, the company’s Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service (TARPS) recorded an increase of 11.4 percent during 2012, the 16th consecutive year TARPS has set ridership records. TARTA’s 2012 total ridership was 3,415,007, up from 3,359,675 in 2011.
With the momentum of continued growth, TARTA is planning to offer some additional services in 2013.
One of the new features, introduced in November, allows TARPS riders to ride TARTA’s regular routes for free, provided they show a TARPS identification.
TARPS, established in 1989 by TARTA, is a complementary paratransit service for riders covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. TARPS service is scheduled in advance and uses vehicles specifically designed for riders with special needs. It covers the same geographical area as TARTA: Toledo, Sylvania and Sylvania Township, Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Rossford, Spencer Township and Waterville. Perrysburg voters elected to drop TARTA service last year.
TARTA General Manager James Gee said this “ride for free” program benefits many TARPS passengers, though not all will be able to use it.
“We have some passengers who, by virtue of disability, will always be on TARPS,” Gee said. “We have other passengers who, depending on the weather or depending on where exactly they are, can ride either TARPS or TARTA. We encourage them to use TARTA, and provide a free fare for them if they decide to do so.”
During the program’s first two months, 4,277 free trips on TARTA fixed-line, Call-A-Ride and sports shuttle buses were recorded by TARPS-eligible passengers, according to the release.
TARTA also announced it will begin phasing in its new Automatic Vehicle Locating (AVL) Passenger Information System in 2013. Gee explained the plans for the next wave in Toledo transit technology.
“We currently track all of our vehicles,” he said. “What we would be doing is taking the information that we have and releasing it to the public, so our passengers can make better decisions on how to use the bus, and know when the bus will be there.”
App on the way
TARTA passengers will be able to log onto the Internet and look at a live map, showing real-time information about their bus. There will also be an app available for Apple and Android smartphones.
Gee said that, according to TARTA website data, about 72 percent of its Internet traffic is from mobile devices.
“If you think about it, it’s [often] a person waiting down on the street corner, wondering when the bus will be there. We’re making that information more accessible to them,” Gee said. “Instead of having to wonder how long it will be until your vehicle will get there, you can look very quickly and find out.”
A texting service will also be available. A passenger will be able to text a TARTA number and receive a text back with real-time bus information — for example, if a bus is running late.
The hardware for the new mobile services has already been installed, and is currently in the testing phase.
“Right now, we’re trying to spread the word that these things are on their way, [so] be on the lookout for them,” said Jim Calhoun, communications vice president with Hart, the Maumee-based agency that coordinates TARTA’s media and marketing campaigns.
Also slated for the coming year will be new LED displays for major bus stops.
“The signs will tell you when your next bus is coming. It’s sort of like being in Washington, D.C., looking at the subway,” Gee said.
A related, but long-term plan for 2013 is a single Downtown TARTA terminal, which will replace the current “Downtown loop” system. The loop system consists of five transfer areas in a four-by-four block area. After the changes, Downtown service will be consolidated into one central facility.
“This will save TARTA time, but it will also be a huge benefit to our passengers,” Gee said. “We’ll have one facility with restrooms and amenities, and that will also help build our ridership.”
Gee asserted that the LED signs will likely be the next program implementated, with installations possibly happening as early as March.
“After that, we will basically start flipping on switches, where we roll out a new product every week or two, making sure that it’s fully tested first,” he said.
For more information, visit www.tarta.com.