New routes, more efficient buses, and road improvements were highlighted today as the city of Asheville marked the official beginning of its transit overhaul, coinciding with the beginning of Strive Not to Drive Week.
Local government officials and community leaders rode one of the city's hybrid buses around town as Transportation Director Ken Putnam highlighted road improvements (some paid for with federal funds), and advantages to the new routes, including a long-awaited route that runs across town while avoiding delays in downtown.
Along with new routes, the system's getting a name change (to Asheville Redefines Transit) and marketing that the city hopes will make it easier to use and more appealing, including a trip planner. Fares are free for the next three weeks. Putnam also touted plans to bring more sidewalks to East Asheville, and better connect the city's bike lanes and sidewalks with the greenway system. The changes are the first phase of a much larger transit master plan.
After the ride, Council members and Mayor Terry Bellamy gathered for a ribbon cutting to officially mark the start of the system changes. Bellamy emphasized that the transit system handled the changes without any new revenue (though outside grants and government funds did help with some of the improvements).
"With no budget increases, we've been able to make improvements for people with disabilities, improve on-time performance, increase frequency of major corridors, consolidate day and night services and make more sidewalk connections," Bellamy said. "The city's making investments in a more sustainable future by taking into account how all types of transit work together."
After the ribbon cutting, about 80 cyclists gathered for the annual Mayor's Leadership Ride to mark the beginning of Strive Not to Drive Week.