Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Part 2: Mass Transportation "Gimmie Shelter"

There was a constant struggle on the CAT board in 2003 and I was proud to be one of those pushing for a refocusing of the CAT mission. I had always been sympathetic and supportive to calls for a bigger service area and better overall CAT system. To me that meant more riders. I was always amazed by how empty the CAT buses were and I wasn't the only one who noticed. I thought several things needed to be done. 1) Smaller buses 2) Clean fuels for the buses 3) More bus stop shelters 4) Attracting a cross mix of riders.

So I asked the Director of CAT during a CAT board meeting, "Please tell me how many bus stops CAT has." He wasn't sure. Right then I realized CAT management wasn't focused on riders. What a shame. CAT is suppose to be in the transportation business right? Well, when the Director and his staff can not tell me how many bus stops the system has I asked how many shelters for riders are in the system? I knew this was a more manageable number since I saw few shelters and many people standing in the hot sun to ride CAT.  I just felt from a logical basis that in this hot and often rainy climate that having a place for your customers to wait for their bus made good business sense.

I was told that staff would have to research that and get back to me. 

The number of shelters at bus stops was incredibly small, I forgot the actual number but it was inconsistent with a smart business model and absent adequate shelters any chance of growing the ridership seemed  remote. We were in SPLOST discussions at the time so I got enough votes together on the County Commission to put $500,000 in the SPLOST budget just for CAT  shelters. Next, we instructed CAT management to start implementing a plan to build 200 new shelters. SPLOST passed and we believed that soon we would be seeing new shelters sprouting up around town. A good first step in creating a more rider friendly and attractive alternative transportation system.

Not so fast McMasters..... Next installment: "How do you define NEW shelter?"

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