Monday, January 5, 2009

The Sweatshirt Capital (Finally) has Public Transit

Martinsville and Henry County launched their new bus service today, with stops at retail areas, government offices, the community college and employment centers. The full list is available here, courtesy of the Henry County website.

First let me say that the public transit system is a step in the right direction and I support it completely. A reliable transportation infrastructure will be indispensable for economic development, since no car = no job in a place as spread out as the county; not only that, but more mass transit = less pollution from individual cars. 

But looking at the route, I have to wonder...where are the residential stops? The only one I've seen is Spruce Villages in Martinsville--surely the route's planners don't expect that one apartment complex to support the whole route? Yes there will be students from PHCC and workers in industrial parks who will use this new service, but it seems to me that the current route does not make a lot of sense for those of us who live, well, everywhere else. Currently, you would have to drive to a bus stop, park your car, ride the bus, then drive back home just to use the service.

An expanded route should include densely populated neighborhoods, preferably with a high youth population, in order to capture the non-driving-age market--Rives Rd, Colonial Heights, and Fayette St seem like good places to start. There should be an additional stop in Uptown Martinsville to help revitalization efforts there and give young people another reason to ride the bus. Who knows? These changes might increase demand so much that more buses and more drivers would need to be added to the fleet. Besides, public transit has to be ready to take advantage of the next time gas hits $4/gallon. 

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