Metro RTA is leaning toward a $25 million plan to shave 10 minutes or more from travel times across Akron.
An update on expansion plans at the Pfaff Transit Center in Akron on Wednesday made clear it’s all tentative at this point, but the leading suggestion is to have multiple new unheated stations along Market and Arlington streets with express routes between the Summit Mall/Montrose area and another terminal between Arlington/Waterloo and Interstate 77. Planners are not ready to commit to exactly where the lines would end, because they want to hear from the public, particularly about whether the lines should extend to Walmart stores at each end of the line.
Planners also heard from riders who want improved service to their jobs in commercial areas in Montrose and the intersection of Arlington Road and I-77.
Most of the construction cost for the new stations and other improvements would come from the federal government; local money would be used for operating costs.
Here are some features of the expansion that could come in four to six years:
• The new service would be “branded” to stand out from other bus service.
• About 25 new stations would offer unheated shelters, an elevated curb so patrons do not need to step up into the bus, and a way to prepare fares to speed entry onto the bus.
• The new routes would have fewer stops and dedicated lanes in some areas to speed travel. The buses also would be given “priority signalling” from traffic lights.
• The new buses would be larger, perhaps “articulated” buses with an accordion-like section in the middle that allows them to bend.
Dedicated lanes can’t be used on the entire route, because there isn’t room for additional lanes. “We don’t want to mess up the auto traffic that’s out there,” said consultant Tim Rosenberger from Parsons & Brinkerhoff of Cleveland.
The current local service with more stops would be unchanged, at least at first.
Rosenberger said demand for those routes has subsided where this plan was started in other places, however, and the older routes eventually were reduced.
The new service should be five to 10 minutes faster from the outer limits to downtown, according to Metro Director Richard Entry.
Set aside was a proposal to build a rail line from the Merriman Valley to downtown Akron.
“We don’t think that’s going to be the answer,” Rosenberger said.
He also said the plan would not increase fares any more than can normally be expected from inflation.
“That’s not part of the plan,” he said.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com.