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Tallahassee Engineers Surprising Transit Turnaround

Under the cover of darkness two years ago, Tallahassee's StarMetro completely overhauled its entire bus system, replacing its out of date hub-and-spoke model with a grid-like system over one evening. This year, the system was honored by the APA.
March 12, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Ryan Holeywell explains the radical transformation that earned Tallahassee's StarMetro transit agency the 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Transportation Planning.

When Tallahassee eliminated every existing bus route and replaced them with new ones in one evening nearly two years ago, "the goal was to replace the city's existing hub-and-spoke bus route system -- in which every single one of the city's bus routes led to a downtown transfer station -- with a grid-like system that more accurately reflected the population and employment clusters in Florida's capital city."

Although the city undertook five years of planning and a vigorous public outreach campaign, the transition was still jarring. According to Holeywell, "Ridership shot up 10 percent, leading to overcrowding and delays. The transit agency had a system that allowed passengers to request information on wait times via text message, but it crashed under the unprecedented number of inquiries. Officials say problems and confusion lasted for about a month before things returned to normal."

Despite the initial hiccups, as the APA's award announcement notes, the long term improvements to operations and ridership have been substantial: "The new transit system reduced transfers at the downtown terminal by 30 percent; decreased total transfers system-wide by 14 percent; decreased the number of routes that share at  least one mile of service from 21 to two and increased ridership by 21 percent in December 2011."

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Published on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 in Governing
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