Greensboro, North Carolina is a pleasant city of 300,000 with two big universities, located in the Piedmont Triad northeast of Charlotte. The city has already adopted a goal to be “car-optional” by 2045. What kind of public transit would that goal require? Working for the City (who runs the local transit service through the Greensboro Transit Agency), we at Jarrett Walker and Associates are seeking public input on two alternative conceptual transit networks. Both conceptual networks have than twice as much service as today.
How would this giant increase in service be funded? In North Carolina, larger counties are allowed to ask the voters for a half-cent sales tax to fund the expansion of transit. Voters in Mecklenburg (Charlotte), Orange (Chapel Hill), Durham, and Wake (Raleigh) have endorsed transit sales taxes in the last 25 years. Our firm was part of the planning process that helped lead to the successful 2016 referendum in Wake County. Here in Guilford County, the potential funding would be split between Greensboro Transit Agency (GTA), High Point, Guilford County, and the regional agency: Piedmont Authority for Regional Transit (PART). The GoBORO Concepts show what could be done with the slices of funding for Greensboro and PART.
The Greensboro News & Record has an article summarizing these Concepts, and it particularly highlights the low level of transit service in Greensboro today.
We often frame transit conversations around a ridership-coverage trade-off, instead of starting with recommendations. That framework can be as relevant in this visionary plan with more resources, as it is in a budget-neutral redesign. We are asking what it means for transit to be an option to cars. Does it mean that:
- Most people have a transit option that is very useful for reaching many places in a reasonable time? Or
- Everyone has a transit option, but it may not be very useful for many people for reaching many places in a reasonable time?
Here’s the existing network. Remember, the colors indicate frequency, as shown in the legend. It’s all half-hourly and hourly routes, converging on a downtown transit center.
(Line 73 is a shuttle funded by the University of North Carolina. Route numbers starting with P are the regional transit agency, PART.)
Here’s the Ridership Concept. It has a lot of service focused on frequent corridors in the densest, busiest parts of Greensboro, though it also covers a slightly larger area.
The Coverage Concept focuses instead getting service close to more places, including industrial destinations in the far northeast of the city. At this service level, we can still afford some very useful frequent service on a few corridors.
As always, these are two ends of a spectrum, and not an either-or choice.
If you’re used to seeing this tradeoff mapped using the low existing service budgets of agencies, as we did in Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, and many other cities, you are used to seeing painful choices, where the Ridership concept removes low-ridership services that a few people depend on. This is a different exercise. We are trying to create a vision of a future network that the people of Greensboro can get behind, so we are asking the community to help us define the balance of ridership and coverage goals that should drive that vision.The large service increases such a tax can fund would have dramatic effects on the usefulness of transit. The Ridership Concept increases median access to jobs within 45 minutes by 140%, and the Coverage Concept increases job access by 86%. Both Concepts also invest in vastly better evening and weekend service. Today, all GTA routes run hourly service on weeknights and weekends. By using these outcomes to demonstrate the effects of investing more in transit, we want to ask the public: “Do you want to invest more in transit?”
If you know anyone in Greensboro, send them to the project website so that they can explore further and provide their input on the Concepts. We also encourage people to read the Choices & Concepts Report that details existing conditions, these Concepts, and the outcomes of service increase and the choices that shape transit networks.