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United Way of Lancaster County


Red Rose Transit hears from public on microtransit, new route plans

(Source: South Central Transit Authority | OUL)

In a virtual meeting Thursday night, the team creating a new Transit Development Plan (TDP) for the Red Rose Transit Authority heard from riders and other members of the public.

Red Rose Transit Authority is looking at altering its fixed bus routes and incorporating microtransit – on-demand service akin to Uber or Lyft – to complement them. Microtransit can provide first-mile/last-mile service, consultant Boris Palchik of Foursquare ITP said, and it can help with gauging an area’s demand for service.

If use of microtransit is high, “you can transition to a fixed-route service later,” he said.  

He said Red Rose Transit Authority aims to make all routes bidirectional, and to create strongly defined ridership models.

Thursday’s meeting followed an in-person one on Aug. 23. Palchik said the meetings’ purpose was to get important information for future planning, and that the TDP is a comprehensive document for looking at things like market and service evaluation and stakeholder engagement.

He stressed that it’s still early in the process, and concepts shown in the draft TDP maps are preliminary.

“We start by trying to understand coverage,” he said, “where should services go – the coverage and the scheduling together help us to understand how many vehicles we’ll need in the network.”

A goal, he said, is to keep service simple, to design routes that are “as direct as possible.”

Going over the routes

Palchik presented possible route changes. Each existing fixed route has two proposed change scenarios as part of the nascent plan update.

For some key routes, one scenario represents a loop approach, and another involves a microtransit zone.

One key change involves a New Holland route going to Grandview Heights, with another assigned bus for the longer journey out to the borough.

A new Route 4 would connect downtown Lancaster and Franklin & Marshall College to the Shoppes at Belmont shopping center. A new Route 8 would reach Wegman’s, Park City Center and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s suburban campus on Harrisburg Pike.

The options can be seen via this online portal, and are also available as a PDF.

Take the survey

In addition to its public meetings, Red Rose Transit Authority is gathering feedback on its Transit Development Plan via an online survey.

The survey asks participants whether they prefer the plan’s Scenario 1 or Scenario 2 overall and provides the option to comment on individual routes. It is open through Sept. 30.


Public input 

Some audience members had questions about the microtransit component. (While some provided their full names as their Zoom handle, many did not.)

“I just wonder about frequency and hours of operation,” said Nerva Ramos. “If (it’s) similar to fixed-route, this would present a problem to many low-income (earners) who work at early or late jobs. … Also, would there be a pilot of microtransit to assess feasibility before committing to this type of model?”

Terry Brown asked how much the microtransit service would cost users.
Others had thoughts about route scheduling.  

“Is it expected to have Sunday service for microtransit in areas (where) fixed routes do not run on a Sunday?” asked a woman named Sharon.

Cassandra Dixon brought up another routing issue.

“Are there any plans to run (Route) 15 more frequently?” she asked. “For those that are pregnant or have small kids, it’s the only route that goes close enough to the WIC office.”

A bus driver on the call, Patty McKenna, agreed that the route needs a boost.

“Right now, there is not enough frequency of service for these passengers,” she said.

“My bus route looks to be eliminated in favor of a city route,” said a commenter.

“How will I be able to get into Lancaster, with no service between the microtransit border and city routes?”

The same participant had questions about service to other outlying areas.

“Adamstown and Denver were hoping to have service, as was the area serving the factories around the Turnpike and (Route) 222,” the individual said. “Nothing to show for us.”

In response to these comments, Palchik explained that although coverage is the priority right now, route frequency and new service areas will be considered later in the process.

Cassandra Dixon cautioned that microtransit vehicles could end up contributing to Lancaster County’s traffic problems.

“Having lived in East Donegal Township for several years, I would have appreciated the ability to use microtransit to get to a bus route from my home, but there are a lot of benefits to the bus that microtransit isn’t able to provide,” she said. “There are a lot of low density but arterial roads in the suburbs/rural areas like Marietta Ave that are already very congested during rush hour.”

A member of the Lancaster Global Shapers hub asked whether tiered pricing has been considered, “to allow for more fixed routes, while allowing for the flexibility of microtransit regions? Could (it) include connections between microtransit regions as a fee?”

Another Global Shapers member asked about the robust coverage of Millersville; Palchik said the college is helping to pay for those routes.

Other viewers asked about transport from one microtransit zone to another, and specifically about coverage of Penn State Health’s new hospital on Harrisburg Pike in East Hempfield Township.

A participant named Tony said rideshares should be required to coordinate with public transportation service.

“RRTA should advocate for regulation of rideshare services to formalize where they can stop for passengers in the urban environments, and on the county level, ask for a fee-per-trip for all private rideshares equal to a regular RRTA fare to help bolster the funds for public transport,” he said. “Bus stops should double as the required urban pickup areas for rideshare instead of any address.”

He asked whether Red Rose Transit Authority could end up picking from both Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 to create its final slate of routes. Palchik clarified that, yes, a mix-and-match result like this is possible.

According to the authority’s timeline, the Transit Development Plan is to be completed by the end of 2023.