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Tallahassee StarMetro gathers rider feedback to inform route and schedule changes

Two women stand looking at three easels with maps displayed.
Valerie Crowder
WFSU Public Media
Bethany Whitaker (left), project manager for Star Metro's Think Transit initiative, explains draft recommendations to improve bus service to Tallahassee resident Linda Wilson (right) on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Linda Wilson takes the bus to her job at Lowe’s every time she’s scheduled to work, except on Sundays.

“When I go to work on Sunday, I don’t have a bus that I can take,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t run in my work area.”

Wilson, 63, works on Capital Circle Northwest, about five miles from where she lives. It’s a trip that typically takes her about two hours to make.

“I should not have to take a bus two hours earlier before my shift starts,” she said. “I have to take an hour to get on one and then 30 minutes to get on the next one. The commute’s too long.”

Wilson shared her feedback with StarMetro staff at the C.K. Steele Plaza Friday morning. Planning consultants with the firm Nelson/Nygaard are working on draft recommendations to improve the city’s bus service. They’ve been gathering community feedback to inform the plans at neighborhood town halls and pop-up information events.

Some common suggestions for StarMetro’s redesign include shorter wait times, more bus shelters with seating, and Sunday nighttime service, Whitaker said.

“We’ll take these back, and we’ll make some changes and then we will prioritize some of the things in here, like the Sunday service we heard a lot about,” she said. “Then we will make our final recommendation to StarMetro.”

They’re also encouraging riders to complete an online survey.

StarMetro has been gathering feedback from the community for more than a year to inform changes to the city’s bus routes and schedules, along with plans for a new transit center on the city’s Southside.

Whitaker says one of their recommendations is to increase the frequency of trips along popular routes. Right now, several weekday routes run every 30 minutes during peak hours, but then slow down to running every hour for much of the day. Whitaker says they’re recommending that StarMetro run the five routes with the most riders every 30 minutes from early in the morning until late at night.

“Buses that come every hour are great,” she said. “Increasing it so they come every 30 minutes really makes it a lot more usable.”

Part of the redesign project includes plans for a transit center on the northwest corner of Orange Avenue and Meridian Street. It's expected to save riders connecting from the Southside time on their commute because they won't have to travel downtown to change buses, Whitaker said. "That's the goal."

Brenda Williams rides the bus three or four times a week. During her commute, she says she can’t help but notice the need for more benches and shelters at bus stops.

“I saw a gentleman on crutches the other day,” Williams said. “There’s no seating where his stop was, so he had been standing there waiting for the bus.”

StarMetro riders wait at a bus stop on Orange Avenue. Like most bus stops in Tallahassee, this one doesn't have a bench or shelter for riders.
Valerie Crowder
StarMetro riders wait at a bus stop on Orange Avenue. Like most bus stops in Tallahassee, this one doesn't have a bench or shelter for riders.

According to StarMetro’s State of the System Report, less than a third of the stops have seating, and only 15% have a shelter. The need for a bench was on display outside a convenience store near the corner of Orange Avenue and Lake Bradford Road, where a man was sitting on a crate.

“I would like that we could have like a bench because people like to sit down. You’ve got kids and stuff like that,” said Eric Jones, who was at the stop on his bicycle. “Just something that keep us from getting wet, and we can sit down right here because it’s 2022 right now. We should be upgraded right now. This is like the old days.”

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.