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26 If the service will be "free," get the full cost of the ser- downtown area. This was scrapped on account of a lack vice paid upfront from sponsors. of utilization, and likely because of the short distance from point A to point B. Demand/Criteria Vehicles If planners say it will not work or ridership will be low, listen. The faux trolley buses operated on the downtown circu- Make sure that the demand for the service is real and lator became prohibitively expensive to maintain in later not just a public relations exercise for the businesses years. Every part was a special order and only specific involved. maintenance personnel had the knowledge base to work Much of the success of our downtown circulator is on them. because there was already a large potential customer base One factor that has made our shuttle very popular in place. It is probably not realistic to expect that "if you and well known is the use of clean and quiet battery build it they will come"; that is, that a new circulator will electric shuttles. However, an agency considering a bring customers to a struggling downtown. similar technology needs to understand the special Set performance criteria and governance structures up maintenance needs to keep a specialized fleet such as front. this in operation. Work closely with stakeholders to make sure that there Perhaps use a rubber-tired "vintage"-style themed trolley are clear performance targets. instead of the 29-foot buses we used. Use ADA accessible ramps instead of mechanical lifts at streetcar station platforms if low-floor vehicles are not Flexibility an option. Maintenance of mechanical lifts is expensive and disruptive to patrons with disabilities when failures Work closely with stakeholders to make sure that adjust- occur. ments can be made in the future depending on perfor- mance levels and budget availability. In our case, downtown interests have strong ownership in our circu- Operation lator service and fare zone, so changes have been care- fully and fully discussed before implementation. Pay close attention to stop spacing and traffic signal Be reactive to your environment to maximize the effi- coordination issues. ciency of your service. Explore strategies to make the circulator faster and thus Build in a regular cycle of reviewing your downtown cir- more convenient. culator service to ensure that you are capturing changes Double the recovery/layover time you think you need. to the downtown landscape. Start with a very small scale in the area and service span SUMMARY thought to be most useful for success. In our case, the rid- ership did not materialize. Although the circulator was This chapter has described surveyed agency assessments of not a success, the cost exposure was relatively small. On downtown circulators. Findings include: the other hand, this leaves some room for debate about whether a more expensive approach (unique vehicle and Results regarding the success of the downtown circulator marketing blitz) may have led to a better outcome. are positive. Thirty-six percent of survey respondents rated the circulator as very successful and 36% rated it as Markets somewhat successful. The primary benefits of the downtown circulator include You can't please everyone all of the time. improved downtown mobility and circulation, greater Do not try to be all things to all people. This tends to downtown access for transit riders, a way for tourists to spread the service too thinly and make it lose focus on get around, a means for employees to get around down- any particular mission (i.e., is it supposed to be primarily town, and positive impacts on transit (increased ridership for employment circulation, housing, noontime lunch and revenue, very frequent downtown service, and an shuttle, etc.). opportunity to streamline other routes). What is the purpose or target market for the service? In Drawbacks to the downtown circulator involve the ten- our case, it was to serve the convention and visitors mar- sion between providing very frequent and direct service ket. Try to connect destinations for the customers with a versus serving all locations that want to be served, low short route that allows for good frequency. speeds owing to downtown congestion, difficulty in A few years ago, the agency offered a "corresponding" maintaining schedules, and negative transit impacts Lunch Trolley along an abbreviated route in the same (circulator takes riders from other routes, maintenance

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27 expense, and confusion for regular system riders). Low of which conflicted with each other; for example, more ridership, expense, irregular demand, and inadequate public input versus limited outreach efforts or imple- funding are also concerns. Eleven percent of survey ment versus discontinue a fare-free zone. This question respondents reported no drawbacks. elicited the greatest variety of comments and the least Most respondents reported no significant impact to the convergence on a clear set of desired improvements. design and operation of the downtown circulator as a Survey respondents shared lessons learned from the plan- result of downtown's changing role. Several agencies ning, implementation, and operation of downtown cir- modified the circulator to serve nonresidential trip gen- culators. The lessons learned were grouped into ten broad erators, such as hospitals, employment centers, historic categories. Lessons regarding partnerships led the list sites, retail, schools and universities, and entertainment of topic areas, followed by service design, and brand- districts. New residential areas were cited by 13% of ing/attracting new riders. A total of 82 responses are respondents. Some of these destinations required changed provided within these 10 categories. or expanded times of service. Improvements related to more and more certain funding The following chapter describes findings from seven case from a variety of sources were most frequently men- studies that explore issues related to the downtown circula- tioned. Many other responses were also received, some tors in greater detail.