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RTC extends public comment period for long-term plan
by Garrett Valenzuela
Mar 15, 2013 | 3085 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo -- New transit routes were a major topic of discussion at Friday's Regional Transportation Commission Board of Directors meeting, but Sparks will have to wait another month for the fate of a possible Sparks Galleria route.
Tribune file photo -- New transit routes were a major topic of discussion at Friday's Regional Transportation Commission Board of Directors meeting, but Sparks will have to wait another month for the fate of a possible Sparks Galleria route.
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SPARKS -- The city of Sparks will have to wait a little longer for public transportation service to the Sparks Galleria after the Regional Transportation Commission Board of Directors chose to further evaluate the route’s service Friday, during its monthly board meeting.

Members of the public voiced their opinion on the changes to the RTC Rapid and Connect Route 2 servicing Sparks, saying the proposed changes would cause much inconvenience to their daily usage of the transit system. The board voted to hold the item until transit planners are able to look at alternate routes and options for the service before bringing it back to the board in April.

The RTC Board did approve fare changes to its system that will reduce pass fares on the RTC Ride by 7 percent and increase fares on the RTC Intercity, which services Carson City, by 25 percent. This comes after RTC transit planners surveyed more than 400 people during a public information session in February. The changes will take place July 1.

Assistant Transit Planner Ed Park said the change will help alleviate pressure on those using the public transit system to look for jobs. He added that using the pass fares when boarding speeds up the process and allows for on-time transit throughout the region.

2035 Regional Transportation Plan

On the heels of Thursday’s public workshop, discussing the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, RTC Director of Planning Amy Cummings addressed the Board of Directors and reported that the period for public comment has been moved back one month. She said a total of 55 people signed in for Thursday’s workshop and she said the public would benefit from more time to view the plan.

“About a week ago, we were thinking about the timeline and we were thinking some people might come to the meeting who might not have had a chance to look at it before they got there. So they would want some time to read it and digest it,” Cummings said following Friday’s meeting.

Cummings said plenty of questions and suggestions came from the public meeting and some minor tweaks will be made to the plan in about a week.

“One of the questions that was addressed and was written on a comment card was getting the Rapid extension up to UNR implemented as soon as possible,” she said. “And that is one that we are working on and hoping to have done within the next year. We did have several comments supporting multi-modal improvements. Focus is needed on not just more passing for cars, but also on connectivity and safety for people walking and biking.”

The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan encompasses nearly 200 pages of transportation plans, road improvements and various workings of the RTC. Cummings said having the public examine the plans as a whole, rather than wait for a single item to come before the board in the future, aids in approving items that will be beneficial.

“We have done our best to have a robust outreach process so we didn’t surprise anyone at the end,” Cummings said. “We held a series of workshops to identify the goals and projects and then the priorities. What we have in this plan is the culmination of that outreach process.

“The reason public outreach is important is because people know their neighborhoods better than we do, and they have different insight and perspective on issues. They can come up with good ideas for us. We have tried to build that in over the last year and a half instead of writing it ourselves and presenting it at the end. It really is based on what people have been telling us.”

Because of the density of the document, Cummings suggests picking up a copy of the plan from the RTC public workshops or viewing and commenting online at www.yourwashoertp.com. The plan will go before the Board April 19 and, if approved, will be sent to the Federal Highway and Federal Transit administrations before going into affect.

“Safety is really the biggest (component),” she said. “It is one of our guiding principles, one of the goals and we try to track that to our performance measures too so we will be tracking safety over time.

“We have identified projects in some of the high-crash locations and intersections around town and we have also conducted road safety audits in several of the corridors. In particular the 4th Street/Prater Way project and the Oddie Boulevard Project we have really addressed the safety issues, so that is one of the big themes.”

Free Rides on St. Patrick’s Day

The RTC will once again offer its Free Ride service during St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday with free service beginning at 4 p.m. and running through midnight on RTC Ride, Rapid, Connect and Sierra Spirit.

Public Information Officer Michael Moreno said Friday the free service will give patrons the option of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and having a safe ride home. He said though Sunday’s holiday is more mellow than other holiday celebrations such as New Year’s Eve, it is still a priority of the RTC to aid people in being safe in the community.

“This is not only a community-wide benefit that provides free transit for the public, but it is also an opportunity for the public to try it for the first time perhaps,” he said. “They can check it out and see if it is something that will work for them, especially with gas prices rising significantly.

“The other greater, broader benefit for the community is it makes our roads safe for everyone, not just for those who are out celebrating but for those of us who are out driving, walking or biking. We want to increase that awareness of ‘don’t drink and drive.’ Ride the bus, designate a driver or take a taxi.”

Moreno said similar programs, such as free rides on Election Day and Dump the Pump Day, offer a chance for the public to try public transportation and also informs the RTC of how their service can be improved. Though funds for these programs are limited, Moreno said bringing ridership like last year’s 33,000 riders on Dump the Pump Day is a continuing goal of the RTC.

“We saw ridership spike 10,000 plus and that’s pretty significant,” Moreno said. “That tells us that people, when given the opportunity to ride the bus, will do so. That tells us how we need to provide our transit plan to the public and how we can get more riders on the bus.

“It had been years since we had the single highest ridership day and that day we set a record. It’s incredible and we were really pleased with the success we had with our ridership on those days, and we have been building on that. Over the last 10 years we have seen either steady or significant ridership increases, which is great for us.”

You can plan your free trip on St. Patrick’s Day by calling 348-RIDE (7433) or by visiting www.rtcwashoe.com.
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