The Summit Stage Board met Wednesday morning to discuss, among other things, increasing free bus service in Summit Cove.
The discussion was prompted by Swan Meadow Village management, which submitted a petition to the board requesting the addition of another bus stop in Summit Cove. Sixty-eight residents of Swan Meadow signed the petition.
Currently, Summit Cove has one bus stop located on Cove Boulevard near the Summit Cove entrance. Gaylene Lowe, Swan Meadow Village community manager, said it takes residents, particularly those with kids, upwards of 20 minutes to walk to the lone Summit Cove bus stop.
“They (Swan Meadow residents) ask me daily when the Summit bus is coming back,” Lowe said. “The walk is tough on a lot of people, especially in the winter. It’s so sad watching kids struggling in the cold weather and the snow trying to get to the bus stop.”
Assistant Summit County manager Thad Noll, who oversees transportation matters, said the board would not be adding any new routes or bus stops anytime soon.
“We’re going to finish the year somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000 in the hole,” he said. “We’re in the red and we need to become more financially secure before we add any new routes.”
In addition to lack of funds, Noll said there was bus service to Swan Meadow on two occasions in the past. It was dropped both times because of low ridership.
“That’s pretty telling,” Noll said. “However, it is an area that’s expanding and we think it’s an option for the future.”
Despite not having the funds to add any new routes in 2014, the request by Swan Meadow residents did incite a productive conversation about how to handle requests and lower operation costs in the future, Noll said.
Today, there is no process in place for residents to request bus service other than submitting a petition, Noll said. The board therefore directed staff to begin exploring procedures to reduce rollout costs and encourage more resident participation in the approval process.
Among some of the ideas the board discussed Wednesday included limited rollout programs featuring smaller shuttle buses or vans, instituting one-year trial periods for new routes and working with communities to identify peak ridership hours and target key bus stop locations.
“We’ve never targeted key locations where we could expect full ridership,” Noll said. “We’ll keep Swan Meadow on our radar.”