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28 CHAPTER FIVE CASE STUDIES INTRODUCTION case study includes a basic description of the system, with data taken from FY 2008 National Transit Database reports. The synthesis survey results provide an overview of the major The interviews explored issues raised by the survey responses issues regarding downtown circulators. Following a review of in greater depth. these results, seven agencies were chosen as case study sites. Personnel directly involved with these programs agreed to be BALTIMORE CITY DEPARTMENT OF interviewed by telephone. In some cases, more than one per- TRANSPORTATION--BALTIMORE, MD son at an agency either participated in the interviews or reviewed the draft summary of the case study. The case stud- Baltimore City DOT oper- ies provide additional details on innovative and successful ates the Charm City Circula- practices, guidance in the form of lessons learned, and insights tor in downtown Baltimore. into how "success" is defined for a downtown circulator. All other transit in Balti- more is the responsibility The selection process for case studies had several criteria: of the Maryland Transit (1) include transit agencies of various sizes in different parts of Administration (MTA), the the country; (2) include agencies at various stages of the imple- regional transit operator. mentation and operation of downtown circulators; (3) select a MTA's service area popu- variety of agencies charged with operating or overseeing the lation is 2.1 million. MTA operation of downtown circulators, including transit agencies, operates 521 peak buses municipal DOTs, and a private-sector entity; (4) include at directly and another 175 under contract, along with 54 heavy least one agency that has discontinued its downtown circula- rail vehicles and 36 light rail vehicles. Annual ridership on all tor to reflect real difficulties facing downtown circulators. services operated is 117.7 million. Almost 80% of responding agencies offered to be interviewed as a case study. As shown by examples from non-case study respondents in chapters three and four, these agencies offered Circulator Origins and Operation very interesting responses based on their experiences. Four of There have been three previous efforts to establish downtown the seven case study agencies are located in the Northeast Cor- circulators in Baltimore over the last 20 years. All efforts were ridor, but each of these has had success in implementing a reasonably popular, but faltered on the lack of a sustainable downtown circulator. The seven agencies chosen provide a funding source. Thus, when a downtown business group representative overview of the current state of downtown approached the city with a new idea for a downtown circula- circulators. tor, the city would not agree without identification of a sus- tainable funding source. Figure 2 in chapter one showed the location of the case study cities, which are: This most recent effort had a different outcome. The city's parking tax was increased by 25%, and this revenue provides ˇ Baltimore, Maryland: Baltimore City Department of 85% of the operating cost for the circulator. The remainder Transportation is funded through development impact fees and advertising. ˇ Hartford, Connecticut: CTTRANSIT The city issued a request for proposals that defined the type of ˇ Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles Department of service it was seeking. Transportation ˇ Louisville, Kentucky: Transit Authority of River City One route would not be enough to serve downtown Balti- ˇ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Center City District more. Also, it was important to go beyond the traditional ˇ Washington, D.C.: District Department of Transportation boundaries of the CBD to serve close-in residential neighbor- ˇ Austin, Texas: Capital Metro hoods that are very transit-oriented. With the urging of circu- lator advocates who did not want a typical bus, the Baltimore The case studies summarize survey responses and inter- DOT insisted on a state-of-the-art hybrid bus for use on the view observations from each agency. The introduction to each circulator. For the first time, the DOT established bus lanes in
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29 downtown along the heavily traveled PrattLombard east workers will be a primary market during the day, visitors west, one-way pair served by the first circulator route. Finally, will be a primary market during evenings and weekends, and the DOT dedicated 5% of the budget for marketing. residents will be a market at all times. The circulator is free. All of these elements are part of a deliberate effort to change The Orange Route, serving 28 stops on its roundtrip the culture of transit in downtown Baltimore and nearby between Hollins Market west of downtown and Harbor East neighborhoods. via Pratt and Lombard Streets, began operation in January 2010. The Orange Route operates weekdays every 10 min from The Baltimore DOT expected ridership on the Orange 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (until midnight on Friday), from 9 a.m. to Route to grow to 1,200 to 1,300 riders per day. After the first midnight on Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. All month of operation, daily ridership had risen to 1,600. On routes in the Charm City Circulator network have the same fre- opening day of the 2010 baseball season at Camden Yards, the quency and service span. Figure 3 shows the route map. route carried 2,100 riders. Next-bus technology on the vehicles and at stops not only informs waiting passengers of the arrival The Purple Route began service in May 2010. The imple- time of the next bus but enables the DOT to track ridership in mentation schedule was affected by delays in the bus produc- real time. Demand is fairly consistent throughout the day, with tion schedule. The city was focused on "doing it right," and spikes at lunchtime (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and in the early accepted delays rather than compromise by using an interim evening (5:00 to 7:00 p.m.). vehicle. Circulator advocates adamantly supported using a vehicle other than a typical bus. The Purple Route is a north The tourist and visitor market has been important for the south route operating primarily via Charles and St. Paul circulator. The city's new convention center hotel is not on Streets, with 27 stops on its roundtrip between Penn Station heavily traveled routes; however, ridership at the circula- (served by Amtrak and MARC commuter rail trains) and Fed- tor stop outside the new hotel has been quite good. One eral Hill south of downtown. marketing technique is to park a circulator bus outside the convention center for the first several hours of each con- The Green Route, which is not yet in operation as of July 1, vention, thereby giving attendees a chance to see it and 2010, will connect Baltimore's City Hall with the historic Fells remember it when they find the brochure in their conven- Point neighborhood and the John Hopkins East Baltimore tion packet. campus, primarily via President and Aliceanna Streets and Broadway. The Green Route will make 25 stops. A major constraint cited by the DOT was the use of federal funds. Like many agencies that do not operate transit, the There is considerable overlap with routes operated by MTA DOT viewed complying with federal rules and regulations as in downtown, but the branding of the circulator buses clearly a major effort that inhibited its ability to respond quickly and identifies them as circulators (see Figure 4). In addition, the flexibly as issues arose. As one example, the agency has had riders of the circulator appear to be largely new users of pub- difficulty obtaining a clear answer regarding requirements for lic transportation. The city DOT and MTA have a good rela- complementary (fare-free) ADA service. The city relied on tionship. MTA is willing to let the city take the lead on the local funding sources to begin the circulator, but the DOT downtown circulator and has taken a supportive attitude. An recently received news that its application for capital funds for interesting aspect of the Charm City Circulator is that two free a proposed route to Fort McHenry has been approved. Water Taxi Harbor Connectors connect Fells Point with Tide Point and Canton Waterfront Park, thus extending the effec- tive service area of circulator routes. Benefits and Drawbacks The city is working with a marketing firm that is more than The primary benefits of the Charm City Circulator are a pre- willing to undertake attention-getting gambits using new mium, easily recognizable service that appeals to choice rid- media, including flashmobs, a Twitter phenomenon in which a ers and a park-once option so that tourists and visitors do not message is sent out to meet at a certain time at a particular loca- have to drive to multiple destinations in downtown. The pri- tion along the circulator. Media coverage has been almost uni- mary drawback of the downtown circulator is the cost. Annual versally positive. The media has raised questions of how the operating costs are projected at $5.6 million when all three circulator can escape budget cuts affecting most departments routes are up and running, or approximately $1.85 million in the city, but is coming to understand the concept of a dedi- per route. cated funding source. The changing role of downtown definitely influenced the Previous efforts attempted to serve multiple markets with design and operation of the circulator. Although the tradi- long headways and circuitous routes. The city is committed to tional CBD continues to thrive, new major activity centers, operating 10-min headways to encourage ridership. The DOT including two Bio-parks and Harbor East, a 24-h district in an has emphasized simplicity and ease of understanding in old industrial area, are within a mile of downtown and are designing linear routes with small loops at either end. Office served by the circulator.
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30 STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE MAYOR FIGURE 3 Charm City Circulator route map.
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31 FIGURE 3 (Continued )