ST. GEORGE – Streamlined bus routes and shortened travel times are possible choices under three proposed SunTran transit scenarios presented for the public’s consideration Wednesday.
An average of 1,600 people a day board SunTran buses that traverse the St. George and Ivins area. In an effort to provide improved service over the next decade and beyond, SunTran officials are looking at plans to streamline bus routes while also taking public input through meetings and an online survey.
“The plan that we’ve been working on is a comprehensive look at the strengths and weaknesses of the existing service,” said Thomas Wittmann, program manager to the consultant team from Nelson/Nygaard.
The firm focuses on transportation system development and worked with the City of St. George to review its SunTran transit service. Recently completed, the review took existing services into account, along with market research and input from bus riders and community members.
This produced three proposed plans that could shorten travel time on many routes by potentially eliminating one-way loops and some lesser-used bus stops.
SunTran currently operates over six routes that run between 40-80 minutes and run in loops. Proposed alternations to the routes could reduce travel time to 30-60 minutes. One of the plans also calls for buses going back and forth on the same route, rather than going through a giant loop.
“One of the key themes of any of the three alterations is to try and move away from the bigger one-way loops,” Wittmann said.
Officials feel the potential trade off of removing some stops and changing routes would be beneficial to the SunTran use overall.
“In a fiscally constrained environment, if you want to make improvements in one area, you need to take service away from another area,” Wittmann said.
Officials believe that any one of the three plans will promote increased ridership of SunTran buses.
No major expansions are proposed in the trio of proposed scenarios.
Wittmann and others were present at public meetings held by SunTran at the St. George City Offices Wednesday. The public was invited to attend and learn more about the different plans and also give input on transit service in general.
St. George resident John James, who attended one of the meetings, said he’d like to use SunTran, but currently doesn’t because the closest bus stop is a mile from his home. However, he said he would rather use the transit system over a personal vehicle. Taking the bus is far cheaper when compared to the costs that can go into owning a car, he said.
“I’d like to get away from all of that,” James said.
For those unable to attend the Wednesday meetings, they are encouraged to visit the Brighter SunTran website and take an online survey that provides more in depth detail and maps of the three route proposals.
The survey is available until June 13.
The City of St. George introduced the SunTran bus service in 2003 with a beginning ridership of 63,000. Last year ridership increased to around 470,000, said Fred Davies, St. George transit director.
SunTran ridership has also seen an annual increase of 4.4 percent, Wittmann said.
One of the most-used bus stops outside of the transit center at 100 South and 1000 East in St. George is at Deseret Industries on Red Cliffs Drive.
The stop at Deseret Industries is where a potential expansion into Washington City could occur in the future. That is among the most requested locations for SunTran expansion, Wittmann said.
Other requests for future expansion include SunTran going to SunRiver, the area around Mall Drive and Riverside Drive, and the new campus of the Dixie Applied Technology College once it is built on the Black Hill.
SunTran expanded service into Ivins in early 2015, . So far Ivins is the only other city outside of St. George attached to the transit system.
The Five County Association of Governments is also looking at the possibility of providing a transit service to the Hurricane/Springdale area.
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