Under the new propositions, Route 2 of the RTC Rapid Connect would make a more direct route between neighborhoods of heavy ridership and RTC Centennial Plaza, providing better service to downtown Sparks. The proposition would also allow for a new service to be built spanning Pyramid Way out to Sparks Galleria.
According to Roger Hanson, senior transit planner at RTC, the areas of west Sparks near Greenbrae and El Rancho drives and Sullivan Lane host much of the ridership in Sparks. Hanson said recent feedback has shown that its current Route 2 and Route 11 paths could use some minor adjustments.
“While the vast majority of people want to go towards Reno, there is still a big group of people there who want to go to Sparks,” Hanson said. “Routing today takes them out of the way to get there. They end up going east of Pyramid before we finally circle around and that is not a very direct way to travel and it discourages ridership.”
Hanson said changing Routes 2 and 11 would disrupt the service on Pyramid Way which would need an entirely new RTC Access bus route. He said the route running north on Pyramid Way would address the growing number of passengers wishing to get to Sparks Galleria.
“What we are looking at is to respond to the greatest demand which is get people to downtown Sparks to make other connections quicker, yet that would remove service entirely off of Pyramid,” Hanson said. “By doing the change we would save the bus a service and then we could do all sorts of things once we are on Pyramid, but the truth is our number one request for new service is the Galleria. It is a great opportunity and opens up a large area of jobs for people. This one looks like it has real potential.”
Hanson said a positive showing in the more than 500 surveys collected Thursday could let the proposition go to the RTC Board of Directors on March 15 and, if approved by the board, go into effect on July 1. Hanson said he feels the interest is there and the possibility of the new route has been in the works for some time.
“We have been floating this idea around for about a year and it was supported strongly by open houses much like this,” he said. “This is one of the strongest ways we get input. This is a real validation of our possible changes and we get a real for it when so many people come in a fill out these surveys.”
Among the other propositions the RTC was hoping to get feedback on were modifications to North Valleys services, a realignment of the southern route in Reno, extensions of Routes 5 and 15 to reach Truckee Meadows Community College and Desert Research Institute and a possible weekend summer service to Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe.
The RTC was also looking for public input on possible bus fare changes to the RTC Intercity, Sierra Spirit and Rapid buses. Ed Park, assistant transit planner, said a pass fare reduction of 7 percent would bring down the price of an adult 31-day pass from $70 to $65. Other fare changes included raising base rate fares for the RTC Intercity from $4 to $5 to make the rate “more equitable with RTC Ride.” The RTC would also implement an off-vehicle fare payment to increase boarding speed on the RTC Rapid, which follows heavily traveled routes.
“The bad economy has really got us thinking about bringing down the fares on our services and Reno has one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation," Park said, adding that a 2012 survey done by the RTC showed the need to bring fares down. "We found that 14 percent of our riders are unemployed looking for a job, which means one in four of our riders is looking for a job. We are trying to help the community and one of the ways we can do that is bring down the fare rates and help people get to those job interviews."
Park said the surveys being filled out Thursday were essential to finding out what changes will help or hinder riders of the RTC buses in the area.
"The primary reason we hold these open houses and surveys is because we need public input," he said. "We really depend on the public to let us know what they think of all of our services because ultimately we are here to serve them. We feel it is our duty to get their opinion and they know the system very well and often times they will have suggestions that we may not have thought of. It is very important to include them in any discussion of new fares or changes to our system."