New CATA bus lanes expected for 2016

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By Kelsey Banas
The Meridian Times

Capital Area Transportation Authority continues its efforts in redeveloping its No. 1 bus route to the Bus Rapid Transit, which will be expected to start around 2016.

Plans have been slowed for about 3 months because it is in an environmental assessment phase, which calls for additional studies and requires public hearings.

The route runs from Meridian Mall in Okemos to the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. The changes will include an addition of lanes for buses only. The plan is to have either a curbside or center-running bus service.

“There is concern for the buses not being able to transition from one lane to the next if it were to be curbside. We are wanting a consistent pattern,” said Mark Kieselbach, director of community planning and development of Meridian Township.

In addition, the new buses would have a control switch to change a stoplight so it will remain green while the bus passes through an intersection.

There is a proposal to have pay stations instead of regular bus stops either at the Meridian Mall or Meijer where you can pay for your bus ride before the bus arrives which shortens loading time, said Kieselbach.

Public forums have given citizens a platform to voice their concerns and inputs about the new project. To get residents in communities surrounded by the Bus Rapid Transit more involved, CATA provided a website, http://cata-brt.org/public-participation/, for public participation.

“The BRT is proposed to be a community driven project and we are listening to the communities wants,” said Laurie Robison, director of marketing for CATA, in a phone interview. “Seen through the public forums and the website, people are very excited about the BRT.”

The Bus Rapid Transit is a bus system similar to what CATA provides now but has modifications, many of which were suggested through public forums and the BRT website, to shorten bus route times.

“The BRT will be beneficial because it will create more ridership and interest to be on the bus. There will be a shortening of time to get from Meridian Mall to the Capitol and back,” said Kieselbach. “BRT will contribute an economic impact and an increasing amount of residence around the BRT corridor.”

“I use the No. 1 bus for my internship at the Capital,” said Chris Wolfenbarger, junior student at Michigan State University. “I think this lane would be more effective because it would down a lot of time traveling between the Capital and East Lansing.”

Wolfenbarger said he thinks the plan could encourage more people to take the bus that would make both cities more eco-friendly. Plus, those every day drivers would be saving money and time.

With the new bus plan, CATA would have to replace all buses on the No.1 route in order to accommodate new platforms at stations. Instead of having riders step up onto the bus the platforms would be level with the bus making it is more easily accessible.

“It really is all about economic development and transforming our region into a corridor that is attractive to new businesses and new jobs,” said Robison. “Research shows that businesses want to be near transits.”

The plan will need a new rearrangement of bus stops with the No.1 stopping already at four major stops: the Capitol, the hospital, Michigan State University and Meridian Mall.

“One idea is to buy new and bigger buses where the rider can bring the bicycle with them onto the bus instead of having to take time and put it on the front of the bus. This will be a more efficient way of shortening time and it is a nicer ride all the way around,” said Kieselbach.

Having dedicated public transportation lanes will reduce congestion in roadways along the Grand River and Michigan Avenue corridors which is one of the biggest concerns for many, said Robison.

For now, CATA will continue providing its regular services with its routes.

To join the conversation, you can attend the next stakeholder meeting listed at http://www.cata.org or contribute to the conversation at http://cata-brt.org.

-Kelsey Banas

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