On the 49th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, Travis, Jocelyn, Jake, and Randy take a listener suggestion and come up with a list of ideas that Cincinnati should copy from other cities. We touch on the ideas like introducing ultra-high speed internet access, completely re-drawing the city’s bus route map, merging smaller municipalities together to gain efficiency, introducing an urban service boundary, and finding innovative ways to generate electricity. In a future episode, we’ll follow up with even more ideas that Cincinnati should consider copying.
Regular commuters who cross the Ohio River, either into Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, are well aware of bringing the required amount of change to transfer between Metro and TANK buses. Other non-seasoned riders, however, were stuck with navigating a complex combination of transfer fees and payment options.
The region’s two largest transit agencies announced that technology afforded to them in 2011 will support the introduction of a long-anticipated regional fare payment card. Metro unveiled the shared stored-value card earlier this month at The Westin’s Presidential Ballroom during the annual State of Metro address.
Transit officials say that the card works with both TANK and Metro buses, thus eliminating the need for carrying change on either system. The card deducts the correct fare amount for each agency so if a rider boards a Metro bus it will deduct $1.75 for Zone 1 or $1.50 for a TANK bus fare.
“We are trying to make this a more seamless and integrated approach to transit.” Metro spokesperson Sallie Hilvers told UrbanCincy.
While there already is a monthly pass that can be used for both systems, the pass is limited to rides on TANK and Metro buses within Cincinnati city limits. As a result, officials from Metro and TANK believe the new shared stored-value card provides better accessibility and flexibility to people who use both systems on both sides of the river.
“We’ve seen more people buying day passes and stored value passes since we introduced them.” Hilvers said.
The pass is available for purchase online, and at the 24-hour ticketing kiosks Metro began installing earlier this year. TANK’s Covington Transit Center is not yet selling the new stored-value cards, but transit officials there anticipate it becoming available in the near future.
This kind of collaboration is not what has traditionally defined the relationship between Metro and TANK, but Hilvers said that this has been years in the making and hopes that it will lead to even more collaboration in the future.
According to Hilvers, the next goal is to work with local universities to develop a standard student and faculty card that would cover access to area institutions served by both transit agencies. Currently Metro has separate agreements with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State, while TANK has an agreement with Northern Kentucky University.
Such changes would seem to bode well for both Metro and TANK. In 2013, Metro reported surging ridership due to the implementation of new collaborative programs and improved fare payment technology.
While the new technology and services are a step toward a broader overhaul of the way area residents and visitors pay for and use the region’s transit networks, it is still a ways from what is considered industry best practices.
Leadership at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which oversees Metro bus and streetcar operations, says that they are working on ways for riders to get real-time arrival information system-wide.
The challenge, they say, is to make sure it is a benefit available to all users. Therefore, transit officials are working to implement real-time arrival information that utilizes smartphone, adaptive website and phone service technologies. Metro representatives are tentatively saying that they are hopeful such services could be in place by spring 2015.
Inspired by Meghan Trainor’s hit single entitled ‘All About That Bass’, a cappella group at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has put together a parody of that same song entitled ‘All About That Bus’.
While Trainor’s song focused on a message about embracing your own body shape and size, the UTC Mockingbirds version focused on embracing the university’s shuttle bus system.
Back to the song where this inspiration came from, Trainor’s single was one of the biggest summertime hits in the United States this year, and top the charts in roughly a dozen countries around the world. While the odds are low that the UTC Mockingbirds will see their version rise to such popularity, it is a hit in our eyes due to its transit-loving nature. Go on now, ride that bus.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) will begin selling new day passes for Metro bus service on Sunday, November 2.
The new one-day, unlimited ride passes are part of Metro’s ongoing fare payment overhaul that began back in 2011 with the introduction of new electronic fare boxes.
The new day passes will be able to be purchased directly on any Metro bus as you board. Jill Dunne, Public Affairs Manager at Metro, says that all the purchaser will need to do is notify the driver before paying their fares. The pass is then activated upon its first use and will be valid for unlimited rides until 3am the next day.
The passes cost $4.50 for Zone 1, which is anything within city limits, and $6.30 for Zone 2. A pass purchased for either zone accounts for all necessary transfer fees.
Since these day passes will be ideal for visitors, you can also purchase them in advance at the sales office on Government Square. The passes can then be distributed to friends or family members and used at their convenience, only being activated upon their first use.
“Riders have been asking for day passes for several years,” Dunne explained to UrbanCincy. “They are great for visitors, occasional riders and anyone who plans to ride Metro frequently throughout the day without worrying about exact change or transfers.”
In many cities around the world, however, the idea of buying day or month passes is a thing of the past thanks to the advent of smart card payment technology. If Metro were to switch over to a system like this, which their new electronic fare boxes are capable of handling, it would allow for riders to use enabled bank cards or loadable fare cards.
“We are looking at all options for fares to make it convenient for our riders,” Dunne emphasized. “We have been working on ‘smart cards’ for a while and I hope we’d be able to roll them out in the future.”
Another new feature riders can soon expect, and has been rumored for some time, is a regional stored-value card that works on transit services offered by Metro and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK). Metro officials say they are optimistic that will be available within the next few months.
Those interested in getting their hands on the new day passes can do so by attending a ceremony Metro will hold at Government Square on Monday, November 3 at 10am. To celebrate the moment, Metro employees and SORTA board members will be giving out 500 free day passes on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Taking transit is not always a gratifying experience. Sure you are reducing your stress by not sitting in traffic, and you’re reducing the impact on both your wallet and the environment. But that does not change the fact that there are many times where you are waiting for your bus or train in unpleasant circumstances.
Of course, unpleasant waiting and riding conditions are not the only things keeping some people away from taking transit, or upsetting those that already do.
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has been trying to fix some of these issues with recent service enhancements and new transit facilities. But those efforts have only gone so far with a limited budget.
Here’s where you come in.
If you have an idea that you think would improve the transit experience for existing and potential future riders, Ioby – a neighborhood crowdfunding program – wants to hear about it. In partnership with Transit Center, they will select the best applicants and award them up to $4,000 in matching funds to implement their idea through what they are calling the Trick Out My Trip campaign.
In order to qualify, organizers say that projects should be non-digital tools that improve the public transportation experience, focus on a single node within a transit system (train station, bus station, bus shelter, subway or metro stop, bikeshare docking station), encourage the use of clean transportation, or be something that is in the spirit of improving shared public transportation experiences.
Ioby also asks that project budgets not exceed $10,000, and that each project involves a group of three or more people working together.
Since Ioby is a crowdfunding platform, project budgeting will require each application to create their own crowdfunding page where the amount of money they raise will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $4,000, by Ioby.
Those interested are asked to submit an initial form of interest by Monday, October 6. From there projects will be selected, with fundraising activities taking place in late October. Organizers say that projects will need to be implemented by November 25, 2014, with reports on their effectiveness delivered by December 16.
So, what’s your idea?