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Grad students helping figure out bus options

Students from Portland State University held a meeting at Keizer Transit Center last week to help Cherriots officials figure out route options in Keizer. (KEIZERTIMES/File)
Students from Portland State University held a meeting at Keizer Transit Center last week to help Cherriots officials figure out route options in Keizer. (KEIZERTIMES/File)

Of the Keizertimes

When it came time to gather ridership opinions, Salem-Keizer Transit Agency officials turned to the youth.

More specifically, transit leaders turned to Paradigm Planning, a group of Portland State University Masters of Urban Planning students interested in transportation, land use and community engagement.

A six-member team of grad students from the program held a meeting April 2 at the Keizer Transit Center and held two additional meetings this week in Salem.

Paradigm Planning members came up with the Capturing The Ride project, focusing on bus service in Keizer, West Salem and South Salem. The goal of the project is to figure out how bus service is underperforming in those areas, restraints keeping people in those areas from riding the bus and reaction to possible alternatives.

The recent meetings are just one step in the project, with more to come in the next couple of months.

Brenda Martin, communications manager for Paradigm Planning, said ideas being looked at include buses going on deviated routes and then returning to regular routes, plus buses going door-to-door, much like Cherry Lift.

“People seemed receptive to the deviator,” Martin said. “The hopper was a harder concept to understand. People were more engaged with it, but it might cost more if it comes to your door. If you don’t want to pay more, what does that mean for your service? Or what if you don’t mind paying more, but you want to get on the bus right now? Our main goal was to educate people on these ideas. You can’t have everything in one service. Some people care a lot about costs, while some care a lot about service and time.”

Martin was happy with how many came last Wednesday.

“We had a good showing,” she said. “We counted 18 people that signed in. We had people coming in and out. We were hoping for 15 to 20 people, so we were pleased with the turnout.”

Sadie Carney, Community Relations officer for the transit district, feels the PSU students are getting good information.

“We asked the student group to look at what a fix might look like for some of the issues,” Carney said. “It might be regular buses going to homes, it could be a smaller bus, it could be a taxi cab. Nothing is perfect. Some things will work better for some than others. Different things will work in different places. They’re looking at what are the issues and restraints for why transit is not being used more.”

Paradigm Planning will be looking at results from the survey that was on the website.

“We did a survey last month,” Martin said. “We got about 400 respondents, asking about the current values of transit. Now we’re trying to get values about the future options for transit, mostly coming out of these three workshops.”

The students will go through the information and present it at an open house next month, most likely at the newly redone Courthouse Square in Salem.

“That’s when we want to really get feedback from the community to see if we got it right or if we missed our mark. Then we’ll look at the opinions and present to the transit board at the end of May. Our recommendations will be for each of the three areas.”

By the middle of this month, Martin said the hope is to have a new online survey up.

“We have until mid-June to make it really pretty and to design it,” Martin said of the final project details. “This is really the most enriching part of the program we’re in. This is a two-year program and we know this is the culmination of our grad school experience. We try to treat it like a real job. We were fortunate to find a client who takes our skills seriously and lets us bring serious change to a region. We couldn’t have asked for a better program. We’re on cloud nine getting to work with people in transit.”

On the other side, Carney is just as happy.

“This is their big final project, a 20-week project,” Carney said. “Communities compete for the honor to have these groups work with them. We were lucky enough to get a student group this year. They do some pretty good work.”