Proposed tweaks to three of Rock Region Metro's 26 bus routes were approved by the agency's board of directors Wednesday.
The modifications will be effective Oct. 30.
One modification includes removing the South Hughes Street overpass on Interstate 630 from Route 3, which goes between the travel center in downtown Little Rock and Baptist Health Medical Center.
The bridge is scheduled to be closed for at least six months while the Arkansas Department of Transportation replaces it as part of a project to widen the interstate in the area beginning in October or November.
The changes also include shifting two of the five routes that circulate in North Little Rock from crossing at the Main Street Bridge to the new Broadway bridge.
Agency staff had proposed two options, but after a review that included three public meetings, the staff recommended traveling south from the Mid-Town transfer hub on South University Avenue then west on West 12th Street. The other option was to use West Markham Street and Mississippi Street to access 12th.
Donna Bowers, the operations director for Rock Region, said Route 3 ranked second in ridership in the system.
"We decided to use the simplest of the two options presented," she said she told the board. "It is a high ridership route. We were concerned about that."
The other changes included switching Route 7, which serves the Dark Hollow neighborhood via Shorter College in North Little Rock, and Route 13, which travels between the travel center and the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock, from the Main Street Bridge to the Broadway bridge.
Rock Region re-routed all buses from the Broadway bridge in 2013 in anticipation of the bridge replacement project. The new bridge, officially named the Veterans Memorial Bridge, opened earlier this year.
Route 7 has seen ridership fall 35 percent, making it one of the lowest-performing routes in the system, a situation Bowers blames on construction and increasing vacancies in surrounding neighborhoods, staff said.
The tweak would allow the staff to extend the route into newer development as well as adjust bus frequency from 35 minutes to 40 minutes at each stop, according to staff.
Moving Route 13 to the Broadway bridge complements the changes to Route 7, staff said. It takes the route off Fourth Street, a small residential street in North Little Rock, and places it on Broadway with ready access for residents of the Theresa James Manor Apartments, the staff said. Broadway also has had recent improvements to its pedestrian infrastructure.
"These are good recommendations, good changes for Routes 7 and 13," Bowers said, adding that she couldn't recommend the Route 13 changes if the board voted against the Route 7 changes.
The transit agency considered but didn't recommend modifications to Route 22, which provides bus service along University Avenue to Mabelvale.
Some riders wanted it to go into the University of Arkansas at Little Rock both northbound and southbound. It circulates in the campus interior northbound, but southbound, it goes along its west side on University.
Putting the southbound bus into the campus would add up to 10 minutes on bus frequency at route stops, which proved unpopular in preliminary feedback the agency received, staff said.
"Riders do not want to add travel time to one of Metro's most frequent routes, which is one of the only north-south routes in the system, along a major city arterial road," the staff said in an analysis.
But the staff is removing a stop at University and 28th Street due to safety concerns. Rock Region had anticipated that the university would win a federal grant to make pedestrian improvements in the area, but the grant hasn't materialized, staff said.
While the project awaits funding, the staff said it will temporarily suspend service to the stop and recommend riders use the stop at University and 32nd Street, where an accessible sidewalk, pedestrian crosswalk and crossing signs are available.
Metro on 08/31/2017
Print Headline: Transit board OKs tweaks to bus routes