WKU Topper Transit
Topper Transit provides free transit service to Western Kentucky University students, faculty, and staff. During FY18, WKU faced a 30 million dollar budget reduction. Each department within WKU faced the daunting challenge of eliminating cost while maintaining adequate service levels to the campus community.
As a result of these budget cuts, Topper Transit faced three significant changes for the new fiscal year: (1) the loss of two vacant Full Time Transit Driver I positions that affected ability to provide service, (2) a relocation of classes from South Campus to main campus that reduced transit demand between campuses (In FY18, the South Campus Bus Stop ranked as the third highest ridership stop for Topper Transit), and (3) opening of Parking Structure 3 that reduced transit demand for off-campus park and ride services, particularly at South Campus and the downtown parking garage.
One thing that worked in Topper Transit’s favor was the completion of an access road that connected WKU’s South Campus with Emmett Avenue last summer. The access road enabled Topper Transit to shorten its route and take buses and drivers off the road without affecting frequency of service for students. The opening of PS3 allowed WKU to shorten that route as well, and converting the Russellville Road West Lot to a low-cost park and ride lot increased transit demand from that parking lot.
With these changes, Topper Transit became more efficient in daily operations. Comparing Fall 2017 with Fall 2018, by using fewer buses, Topper Transit reduced service hours operated by 15%. While ridership decreased by 8% between the two semesters, which was expected given the campus changes, the decline was less than the reduction in service hours. Our average ridership per hour remains strong. Additional cost savings were realized because the shorter routes reduced miles traveled (12%) and fuel consumption (8%).
In addition to the internal adjustments to increase efficiency and cost savings, Topper Transit is also partnering with the MPO to have a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA) conducted by an outside agency. The firm conducting the COA has been collecting ridership data and analyzing the existing transit routes. The findings and recommendations from the COA may be available to implement changes in the FY19 Spring Semester. Topper Transit is committed to providing high levels of service to our customers while seeking cost savings and improving operational efficiencies.
GO bg Transit
Community Action of Southern Kentucky is in the process of restructuring the GO bg Transit staff to make the organization more effective and efficient. Applications are being accepted and interviews are currently being conducted for leadership team positions. It is expected that positions will be filled by mid-February. Job postings are available for review and applicants may apply at http://www.casoky.org/employment.
During the last quarter of the year, voice annunciators were installed on GO bg buses to announce major bus stops through voice recordings. The automated announcements which are broadcasted inside and outside of the bus lets passengers know how long they have until their stop and when it’s time to get off. This provides more consistency and creates less driver distraction as stops were previously announced manually. The project was completed at a cost of $139,666 which was utilized Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Sections 5307 and 5310 grant funds.
GO bg Transit observed an increase in ridership over the past year. From 2017 numbers, ridership increased in October, November, and December by 21.74%, 21.18%, and 23.05% respectfully. This is a vast improvement to the -24.36% year over year (March-February) ridership decline that occurred after changes were implemented as a result of the study conducted by WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff. Routes were revised again in March 2018 due to the sharp ridership decline and have shown improvement.
Community Action of Southern Kentucky / GO bg Transit is additionally cooperating and participating in a transit study being conducted under the discretion of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), with direction from the City of Bowling Green and WKU, to analyze operational effectiveness and efficiency. Results of this study are expected to be complete by June 2018. Stay tuned to future MPO newsletters for updates on the findings of this transit study.