City adds bus routes
Published 9:43 pm Monday, August 4, 2014
Suffolk Transit is venturing further than it ever has before, taking riders to North Suffolk and Chesapeake Square beginning this week.
Pilot services have been added in response to requests from citizens, says Diana Klink, spokeswoman for the city of Suffolk.
Last year, the city partnered with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation on a plan to develop transit services in Suffolk.
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It’s similar to VDOT’s six-year plan identifying needs and opportunities, according to Klink.
“Through surveys and interviews, it identified that two of the most requested improvements to the city’s transit system were for service in the northeastern section of the city and for connection to areas served by Hampton Roads Transit,” Klink stated.
The Blue Route journeys from North Suffolk Library on Bennetts Creek Park Road to Belleharbour, Harbour View, Huntersville, College Square, Hampton Roads Crossing, Burbage Grant and Pughsville.
According to a city news release, it serves residential, medical and business locations, running hourly from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The Gold Route, meanwhile, originates at Suffolk Transfer Station, at the corner of Main and Prentis streets, connecting with the Hampton Roads Transit service on Portsmouth Boulevard in Chesapeake — near the old Kmart — and continuing to North Suffolk Library, where riders can transfer to the Blue Route.
From there, the Gold Route returns to the transfer station in downtown Suffolk. It’s available five times a day, Monday through Friday, with the earliest service departing the transfer station at 7:30 a.m., and the latest leaving North Suffolk Library at 4:59 p.m. and arriving back in downtown 24 minutes later.
The city is not hiring any additional staff for the new routes, but Virginia Regional Transit, which has the contract for the Department of Public Works-administered service, has hired some additional workers, Klink stated. She did not know exactly how many.
The city owns the buses but pays VRT an hourly rate to operate them. It has purchased two new buses, Klink says, expanding the fleet to six.
“The buses have been ordered but are not expected to arrive until November,” she stated. “VRT is assisting the city by supplying additional buses to cover the shortage until our new buses arrive.”
With the two new routes, the city expects to pay VRT $902,041 for fiscal 2015, which is 41 percent more than last year. But the cost will be offset by DRPT grants, additional fare collections and advertising, Klink stated, adding that the state is also assisting with the bus purchases.
It’s expected the pilot routes will be evaluated within two years.
“We have received requests for these services for some time and we are optimistic that the ridership will develop,” Klink stated.
“Since it is a new service, it will take a little time for patrons to figure out the system and how to effectively use it.”
Servicing Holland Road, Paul D. Camp Community College and Saratoga, the seven-hours-a-day Yellow Route had about 5,750 trips in its first year, according to Klink, largely because it re-established a service that was eliminated when HRT left.
“There was some ridership that had already been cultivated,” Klink stated, adding that the city hopes the longer-running Blue Route will see similar numbers.
“We are less certain about the Gold Route, but are hoping for numbers similar to the Red Route’s first year, which was about 4,000 riders,” Klink stated.
According to the schedule — available for all six routes at www.suffolktransit.org — the Blue Route will make 10 stops after leaving from and before returning to North Suffolk Library.
An all-day pass costs $3, while a one-way fare is $1.50. Children 5 and under ride free.
Tickets and passes are available at the Suffolk Treasure’s Office, 441 Market St., and the Virginia Regional Transit Office at 1248 Holland Road. Or pay cash — exact change required — on the bus.
Suffolk Transit buses don’t run on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.