Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Metro unveils Metro*Plus fleet; Service launches Aug. 19

The ten new buses that will serve the Metro*Plus bus rapid transit (BRT) demonstration project along Montgomery Road were unveiled last Friday at the Riverfront Transit Center Downtown.

Metro*Plus, a limited-stop transit service that will connect Downtown with Kenwood beginning August 19, is the latest idea from local business, government, and transportation leaders to address our region's mobility challenges.

The service will offer direct connections to Uptown, Downtown, and The Banks – with no transfers needed. It will also serve students of the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University and will offer quick transfers to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

Buses will arrive at stops every 15 minutes on weekdays between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M., and every half-hour from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M.

Metro*Plus is part of Metro's update of its comprehensive regional transit plan, which was launched last year as an update to its 2008 plan. Additional service changes, which will include additional service along major corridors, additional cross-town routes, and new destinations, will launch in August and in December.

Riders will be able to use Metro*Plus for free from August 19-23. Fares will then be $1.75 in Zone 1 and $2.65 in Zone 2.

A full schedule has been posted online.

The Montgomery Road corridor was one of six heavily-traveled routes identified in a Parsons Brinckerhoff study as suitable for BRT service.

"We want to do it in a smart way," said Metro CEO and General Manager Terry Garcia Crews. "This is a baby step to serving new destinations in which you don't have to come Downtown. We want to make sure that we have the stops that are convenient for our riders."

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls first championed local BRT in a 2010 City Council motion.

"We have to recognize that our economic growth and economic development is dependent upon how connected we are as a region," she said. "Metro*Plus and BRT will be critical components in developing the region."

The Riverfront Transit Center will serve as layover space for the new buses. Dedicated in May 2003 and built for $23 million as part of the Fort Washington Way reconstruction, the center generates $480,000 in annual revenue from parking and charter use – $170,000 annually after expenses.

The center, which is located underneath Second Street, was designed to be a multi-modal transportation station that can accommodate buses, commuter rail, and streetcars. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who also serves as president of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments board and chair of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, has championed commuter rail along the Oasis Line and into the Riverfront Transit Center, pleading for it to be up and running in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

"One of the essentials for the future of this region is a seamlessly connected intermodal transit system," Portune said.

'Wants to see it fully utilizied'

The bright blue Metro*Plus buses are easily identifiable, and special Metro*Plus bus stop signs will make it easy to discern the route. Riders can park for free at the Silverton Park & Ride.

The first Metro*Plus bus was dedicated to William Mallory, Sr., a former SORTA board trustee who played a major role in the creation of Metro in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mallory was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives for 28 years and was the longest-serving majority floor leader in Ohio House history, whom Garcia Crews called "a tremendous legislator and an advocate for public transportation".

Neither William Mallory, Sr., nor his son Mayor Mark Mallory, was able to attend the unveiling. State Rep. Dale Mallory (D-32nd), a ranking member of the Ohio House Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Committee, attended in their stead.

"If he [William Mallory, Sr.] were here today, he would probably be in there [the bus]," Dale Mallory said. "And I'm sure one day you'll look up and see him on it."

A weekend event will be held to showcase the Riverfront Transit Center because he "wants to see it fully utilized", he said.

In the meantime, the public will have an opportunity to see the new buses during Metro's 40th Anniversary Celebration, to be held on Fountain Square on August 15.

Metro is a tax-supported public service of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, providing about 17 million rides per year in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties.

Previous reading on BC:
$6.9M Uptown Transit District to 'move Metro to the next level' (6/3/13)
Metro short-term service changes coming this fall (5/16/13)
Metro: 2012 one of its 'greenest years ever' (4/12/13)
Metro ridership up 4.2% in 2012 (1/25/13)
Montgomery Road Metro*Plus service to be precursor to bus rapid transit (10/31/12)