Legacy Fund: Free Public Transit Throughout Downtown?

Throughout the past year we’ve all heard about the “Legacy Task-force”.  These are the committees put together by Mayor Tom Henry to decide exactly what we should do with roughly 75 million dollars in unallocated money from the Light Lease Settlement.  One seemingly smaller proposal was brought forward by Citilink.  The total amount of funds which they are requesting is $297,475.  This would provide 20% of the budget needed to start a 3 year program to provide free weekday transit throughout downtown.  I have to say, I’m all in for any expanded transit options throughout the city, but these must be well planned to maximize the investment.  One topic the proposal doesn’t mention is weekends, which im assuming means they won’t exist. I don’t know if this is necessarily a concern, as the number of pedestrians downtown on weekends are far less than weekdays  At the same time, we’re talking about the next 3 years, we should find ways such as free transit to encourage visitors to come downtown on the weekends.  Let me know what you think….

Proposal Summary: Citiloop Downtown Circulator is designed to provide improved public transit access in Downtown Fort Wayne. In partnership with the City and County Citilink would expand service by adding a route that would reduce congestion and promote mobility for downtown workers and guests.

Project Description: Three year demonstration of a new fixed route, available to the general public, offering fare free service for all. The service would operate using two (2) vehicles for 12.5 hours per day (including deadhead) at $73/hour year one (with a 5% annual inflator) for 256 weekdays/year. The route would run every 8-10 minutes from 7:15am to 6:45pm weekdays to link downtown workers and guests to parking, workplace and commercial destinations (see attached map). Stops along the route would be limited to ensure 8-10 minute service frequency at each stop.

The cost would be shared by a Federal Highway Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) grant, Citilink, and the Legacy Fund. Financial assistance from the City and the County is anticipated but not guaranteed at this time.

Public Benefit: The overall benefit of public transportation is decreased congestion, reduced pollution, economical transportation, access to essential services (jobs, education, social services, community life, etc.), fuel economy, reduced reliance on foreign oil, etc. The specific benefits of this project include reduced cost of travel and improved mobility for downtown workers and guests…

$1,189,903Citilink staff has participated in multiple discussions with the Mayor, key city staff, and County Commissioners for several months to discuss concerns regarding the distances between employee parking and the Citizens Square building. During that time, we have discussed various options to address the transportation challenges and opportunities for improving mobility throughout our downtown area. The timeframe allowed for submission of the Legacy Fund group proposals has not provided sufficient time to obtain a firm commitment of funding from the City or County.

The Downtown Summer Lunch Trolley operated by Citilink and supported by downtown businesses and the Downtown Improvement District (DID) provided lunchtime circulator service for several years. This was discontinued due to a change in DID funding priorities and the unreliability of the 20+ year old trolleys which were sold at auction. This service averaged 14 trips/hour in its day. Ridership on the Citilink Flexlink Route 22 that serves the Aboite/Lutheran Hospital area and Route 21 that serves the Coldwater/DuPont Hospital area is about six (6) passengers/hour or approximately 23,000 trips/year/route. Our new campusLink shuttle (a funding partnership with IPFW/Ivy Tech) provides about seven (7) rides/hour and 36,353 trips in the first school year of service – ridership continues to improve. We anticipate a new Citiloop downtown circulator will be equally effective.

The Citiloop circulator will encourage the use of public transit. The environmental benefit of mass transit over single occupancy vehicle is well documented; it reduces congestion, idling, paved parking lots, vehicle miles traveled, etc. Riding the bus can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by over 200 pounds per day. A recent national study, Moving Cooler, found that increased public transit, combined with other policy strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 24% and have a net cost savings of $112 Billion.

The reduction of vehicle miles traveled in the congested downtown area will help Fort Wayne maintain compliance with federal air quality standards. Allen county was designated a non- attainment area and is now in ‘maintenance’ status. With more stringent requirements pending it is necessary to do all we can do to improve our air quality.

Catalytic Investment: This demonstration project, if successful, would result in continued revitalization of our downtown area. A funding partnership with the City, County and any other interested businesses will help sustain the service beyond the availability of the grant funding. This concept has proven successful with our campusLink shuttle; with IPFW & Ivy Tech each providing 10% of the funding for the demonstration. They have made a commitment to ongoing funding, at some level, to preserve the service after the grant subsidy funding is expended. We anticipate following this same model for this service expansion project.

Leveraging Resources: Federal funding from the Federal Highway Administration can be made available for this project. This project proposal has been deemed eligible by the State CMAQ review process. Citilink has received CMAQ funding in the past that was used as a catalyst for the campusLink project. Future CMAQ funding, distributed on a discretionary basis by the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRC) Urban Transportation Advisory Board (UTAB), has been requested. The City and County are actively considering providing a share of the cost through the three year demonstration and beyond.

Community Plans: Service expansion in conjunction with community funding partners is consistent with the Citilink Transit Development Plan. http://www.fwcitilink.com/pdfs/Citilink_TDP_Update_Final_Report.pdf. City and Countywide plans also include infrastructure improvements for the increasingly congested central business district. The Northeast Indiana Vision 2020 lists community infrastructure that supports economic development as one of the five priority key impact areas. Maintaining and improving public transit access to jobs, services, health care, recreation, etc. is a vital component of the infrastructure necessary for a vibrant community.

Priority Process: Several projects were discussed as they related to the criteria put forth by the Legacy Fund process. Projects that included multiple funding partners, leveraged federal funds, and utilized Legacy for a finite period of time with lasting benefit were given highest priority.

-fwcitilink.com

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Categories: Legacy Fund, Transit

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