Sioux Falls Earth Citizens, Speak up to help preserve and improve Sioux Falls’ fixed-route bus system.

By Cathy Brechtelsbauer, earth citizen • 8/1/19

A “Core Team” of city employees has been discussing re-vamping the bus system. They presented to city council on July 16 (4pm meeting) their proposal to pilot an “on demand” system, rather than improve the fixed-route service. The proposal would expand service area and hours but admits to focusing generally on current riders. A computer system would determine routing for 9 buses (down from the current 26) picking up and dropping off people at locations within 3 blocks of their start and destination.

Public transportation plays an important role in confronting environmental challenges. Public transportation can:

• Improve air quality

• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

• Facilitate compact development, conserving land and decreasing travel demand

• Save energy

• Other benefits (such as affordable mobility, congestion relief, economic development.) [Federal Transit Administration website]

Our concerns:

1. Sioux Falls has not expanded bus service to match the growth of the city. Nor has Sioux Falls tried a major bus ridership campaign.

2. A new plan must be able to start from day one serving at least current riders. We sure don’t want to lose riders.

3. Transportation is now the #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions. Any plan must help SiouxFalls do its part to turn the tide on climate change. It must have strong potential for increased ridership, even if part of the service is devoted to hard-to-reach places and times. Fixed-route systems have more potential for environmental benefit than on demand systems. The proposal, as presented, includes no goal about increasing ridership or about reducing our carbon footprint.

4. On demand transit is being piloted in a number of cities, with results so far that question efficiency and financial stability. Compare typical 10-40 passenger trips/hour for our fixed routes (Only one route in Sioux Falls averages less.) to on-demand pilots, which yield up to 3 passenger trips per service hour.

5. A fixed-route system is needed for those who can manage fixed route buses but cannot handle changeable routings. For example, people with cognitive impairments can learn where and when to catch the bus to get to appointments and also to get home, as can people without phones. Their independence is diminished if fixed routes are lost. With fixed-routes, riders can know arrival times needed in order to plan their rides.

“The number of people who use transit is directly linked to transit’s ability to provide environmental benefits.” [Federal Transit Administration website]

A 3-City Bus Ride Snapshot: Arlington, Missoula, Sioux Falls Arlington TX and Missoula MT were the only other cities mentioned at the July 16 City Council informational meeting, where an update on the Core Team’s progress was presented and seemed decided to pilot an on-demand system for Sioux Falls.

Arlington TX did not have public transit until starting its on demand “Via” system in late 2017. (A 4-route Trolley system serves only hotel guests.) Arlington uses 13 Via vans and also contract vehicles during peak times. They also have Paratransit. Population: 396,394 Average rides on Via, April-June 2019: approx. 16,000/month

Missoula MT “Mountain Line” uses a fixed route system that has been Zero-fare since 2014. Local businesses and organizations are “partners” by donating funds to cover the fares. They also have Paratransit. Population: 73,340 Average fixed-route rides in 2018: approx. 131,000/month

Sioux Falls’ Sioux Area Metro (SAM) has both fixed-route and Paratransit. Population: 176,888 Average fixed-route rides in 2018: approx. 65,000/month

This snapshot gives us pause about the on demand proposal and the confidence to suggest that the Sioux Falls planning team consider a ramped up, even a zero-fare fixed-route system.

The Core Team has given time and energy so far, and we hope there is willingness to keep considering more ideas. In addition, the City Council should insist that our bus system both meet needs of vulnerable citizens and expand service and ridership enough to reduce our carbon footprint.

How to contact City Council: www.siouxfalls.org/council/members has names, phone and email contact info. Emails: jbrekke@siouxfalls.org, cerickson@siouxfalls.org, gneitzert@siouxfalls.org, mselberg@siouxfalls.org, csoehl@siouxfalls.org, pstarr@siouxfalls.org, tstehly@siouxfalls.org, rkiley@siouxfalls.org, PTenHaken@siouxfalls.org

Public input at Council meetings the first 3 Tuesdays each month, 7pm. One letter can be sent for all the council: City Council, 235 W 10th St, Sioux Falls SD 57104



1 comment so far ↓

#1 "'Extremely' Stable Genius" on 08.10.19 at 11:07 am

I would like an on-demand taco service myself for this city. I think that would be cool.

But on a more serious note, this on-demand bus idea is an attempt to slowly, but surely, get rid of public bus services in this town.

Government exists to do what the private sector will not do. Government is not suppose to be in the business of trying to emulate business in terms of its overall mission.

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