Provide your feedback to RTA by taking their strategic plan questionnaire. They want info from riders AND non-riders to improve their service.
Thanks to everyone who offered comments, advice and recommendations on the best way to bus and/or bike to get around Dayton! I really appreciate all the support. I had a great last day – bike/bus combo to work, bike to meeting, bus to event up north, bike the AWESOME trail from Wegerzyn to Riverscape and catch a night bus home. And finally – on my last day – I felt as if I had a solid grip on a lot of it. I recommend that you consider giving up the car for a trip or two and seeing how it works out for you.
Now that this little adventure is over, I think about how I may go car-less in the future. And again, strategy and choice are two concepts that keep coming up. Would I take the bus to/from work? I think so – especially with my bike on board. Would I try the bus for a night out? Sure – cheap transportation to the city and I can always cab it home if it’s a late night. Would I allow the bus schedule to affect something like grocery shopping? Most definitely not. Is my bike a viable option for a work commute or errands? I think it can be. As I get better at this, it’s likely that my routine could blend better with the routes/schedules and it wouldn’t be so challenging. So, that said – I’m what you’d call a consumer of “choice.” I don’t have to ride the bus, but when it makes sense for me, I can choose it.
I started out this little adventure with some concerns about negative aspects I’d heard about RTA. And overall, there was a mix of myths busted and confirmed. Is the bus limited in area? Although some have lamented the lack of a bus that goes to the airport (a valid concern), for my purposes, the routes went everywhere I needed to go. Is the bus dangerous? I never felt threatened or scared. Some experiences were uncomfortable (when strangers – emphasis on strange -strike up a conversation) but never dangerous, even on my evening rides. Is the bus difficult to navigate? This is a mixed bag. It’s tough in the beginning to get a grasp on how the routes work and the best places to get on and off and what buses to take. But that’s life and with experience, it gets a lot easier. It’s also a little frustrating that if you miss one bus the whole schedule may be thrown off, but that’s a personal challenge. As people advised in the comments – you’ve got to get there early enough to not miss the bus. Is the bus expensive? Well – it depends. I have a fairly easy commute, so on an average day with a few errands, I may use about $6 in gas. If I were to bus everywhere, it would cost about $5.75 if I paid cash ($1.75/ride + $0.25 transfer). But, a monthly pass for unlimited usage is only $55 (less than $2/day), a weekly pass is $19 (less than $3/day) and you can purchase a 10-pack of tokens for $1.50 each. So – the value is really based on how much you use it. If you don’t want to deal with parking or the dangers of drinking and driving, is a bus to the city for a festival cheaper than a cab? Heck yeah – that’s value. Is it worth it to take the bus to run numerous errands on a day? Maybe not.
So, that’s MY opinion on some of the myths I heard before I started. But I wanted to reach out to RTA to seek some official thoughts on what I experienced, the comments you posted throughout the week, plans for the future of RTA, and any recommendations on what I could have done for an easier week. I spoke to Sabrina Pritchett, the Marketing Manager for Greater Dayton RTA for her thoughts.
First things first – some of the issues readers brought up:
It’s a great question because it is a continuing issue. The one thing about the trip planner – we’ve all be really conditioned with Google to be specific. Ours is the opposite – you want to be as general as possible. If you do that, it will give you consistent results each time. The trip planner will give you choices that fit your selection. Do not use the quick planner – the expanded version provides better results.In terms of the Google trip planner, that is something we are looking at as an agency to be able to implement. It is our hope we may be able to implement in the future, but there’s no timeline on that.
We survey, survey, survey our customers on a regular basis and we just haven’t gotten a lot of requests for that. It has been something that has been discussed, but it’s not anything that really has registered with our customers or even non-customers when we survey.
When I think about bus riding in most mid-sized cities, it’s a partnership experience. When you’re driving, you manage that process on your own. When you’re riding the bus, you need to be mindful of your schedule. The bus can’t veer off of the route because there may be a back-up in traffic. So, the bus doesn’t have that kind of flexibility – it has those time points to meet. Especially if you’re taking the bus during off-peak hours. When you’re talking about off-peak it can be especially challenging when you do miss the bus.Because of the economy and the funding cuts at the state level, we cannot add additional service. We had more service and new service that was going to be implemented in June, but it got cut. When those cuts happen in funding, it really does adversely affect the kind of service we can offer on the street. We’re not seeing anything in the immediate horizon in which we’ll be able to add service. We’ve been very creative to adjust existing service so we could address some of the requests we’ve gotten from customers to go to new areas and service new businesses. Even though we haven’t been able to add new service, we’ve tried to work to augment what we have.
If I were a new customer, the first thing I would do would be very familiar with my schedule and my route. As a choice rider, you may find you may not be able to take the bus everyday, but it could work 3 days a week and work very well for you. Our schedules are very precise and very detailed and available online – so use them. Second, sign up for alerts. Because we do send out alerts to our customer through PDAs, cell phones and email. That’s going to let you know if there’s anything taking place on your route, and you can make adjustments. Third, when you go to the RTA homepage, there’s a box that says “New to RTA” that truly gives you everything you need.When you are new, that’s when the call center really comes in handy. They have the tools that we weren’t able to put on the web site to look at the whole service. Especially when you are a brand new customer, it’s beneficial to make that initial call to the call center. Certainly you can go to the Web site and get everything you need, but the call center is very helpful.
We don’t really have anything on the horizon in terms of programs, but there are some things out there that can affect rider experience.
- In the last few years, we’ve gotten over 100 new buses. We don’t have an aged bus fleet. Even in extreme weather, riders have a more consistent experience without bus breakdowns or stalls.
- Our maintenance team has ramped up a program in which they are focused on the appearance and cleanliness of the bus (inside and out). When those buses come into the garage, they are working diligently to get them clean and ready to go.
- The third thing we have in place is the Customer Service Promise. Unless it’s really a glaring issue, it’s hard to spot a trend, but customer feedback helps. The Customer Service Promise is an accountability tool – if there’s a problem, (customers) can go right to the top and let the decision-makers know that there’s an issue. We have customers that will call in directly about bus stops and placements and we work so hard to be able to address those issues directly. We have a very heightened sense about customer service – from our Executive Director to our grounds crew.
It was a very cool experience for us to go through this with you. Some of the issues you had encountered, we’re working on the back end to be responsive (i.e. trip planner). A last thought would be that RTA tries to be very responsive to our customers and the general public. Interact with us; if you have ideas – give them to us. Our chief is very visible and he’s very open to talking to people and trying to be responsive to what people need in their riding experience. Our Transit Ambassadors are there to help you out with anything and make sure your experience is safe. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. We are your RTA – access us, use us, contact us. Even if you’re not a rider, you may have some ideas.We have our strategic questionnaire available now and the first part is geared toward people who aren’t currently readers. We are trying to get as much feedback from the community as possible. It’s just as important to us to have feedback from the general public as it is from our customers.
In addition to the “challenges” we as riders see, Ms. Pritchett also shared some great aspects of RTA. Did you know:
- RTA has been awarded “Ohio’s Greenest Fleet” status by the Clean Fuels Ohio’s statewide Ohio Green Fleets Program
- RTA is one of only 5 cities in the US with electric trolleys (down for the summer due to construction – they’ll be running again this fall)
- RTA’s Operator Training program was a Top 3 Finalist in the country by the American Public Transit Association
- RTA was the first transit system in the country with a bus fleet equipped with bike racks
- RTA was recognized by the Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities for our Operator’s Disabilities Training program
Thanks to everyone who rode along with me by reading. Want your own bus adventure? RTA has offered three additional 7-day passes for a lucky DaytonMostMetro.com reader. Check out the details below for how to win.