By BROOKE WANSER
At Thursday’s Franklin Transit Authority meeting, officials revealed plans to add 100 new stops along current transit lines next month, which will shorten travel time and increase ridership.
Representatives of the TMA Group, which operates the Franklin Transit Authority, reported on the transit lines’ 10 percent increase in ridership in the past year. Much of this is due to the rise in transit on demand, a platform which allows riders to make a reservation for a ride pickup along the fixed route.
The transit authority will add routes from Columbia State Community College to Cool Springs, and along the Westside, as it shifts from a circular route toward a grid shape.
Debbie Henry, the executive director of the TMA Group, said adding the 100 new stops to the 75 already in service would incentivize riders from nearby Columbia State Community College and employees in the Cool Springs area.
Henry said she was at an event recently with two Columbia State students at her table, and relayed their thoughts on the transit plans: “They were like, ‘So we can leave our cars parked at Columbia State and we can catch the transit and go to the mall? We can go to the restaurants and we can come back for our late afternoon classes?’” Henry said. “They were just like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool!’”
Stanton Higgs, the business development and operations director of the TMA Group, said the organization will also shift their hub of service from where it is currently located, at the Factory, to the Franklin Transit Authority building, at 708 Columbia Avenue.
“In the end, it really helps your synergies and communications go a lot better,” Higgs said.
Higgs said the transit authority will also be working to roll out a phone app and a new system of payment similar to ones utilized by ride sharing apps.
“It’s not as easy as Uber makes it feel for you,” Higgs said. “They’re pretty sophisticated.”
Though transit officials didn’t have a date when the new lines would begin running, Henry said it would be in October, and to “Stay tuned.”
Items of note:
- Henry said Franklin shuttles would be providing rider services during the Pilgrimage Music Festival this weekend. For $1 each way, riders can park at Liberty Elementary School and take the shuttle to the Factory, across the street from Harlinsdale Park.
- Higgs said the county has also pitched in the funds to replace the leaking roof of the building where transit vehicles are stored, as well as replacing the interior lighting. “The lighting in there is like the old days when you’d go play basketball in the gym and it would take 30 minutes to warm up,” Higgs said, while thanking the city for funding the repairs, which will begin this month.
- A part of the transit authority is vanpooling, which Diane Thorne, TMA’s regional director for transportation, said is becoming more popular, especially as gas prices trend upward. A 12-seat Nissan van, which is being added to the van fleet for those who use the pool service was revealed outside the Franklin Transit Authority building.