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OCR for page 27
27 CHAPI ER FIVE CONCLUSIONS Suburb-to-suburb travel is becoming the dominant con~- muting pattern today because of shifts in regional population and employment. This commuting pattern change from tradi- tional transit, CBD-focused travel, continues to challenge transit agencies as they strive to creatively design services for the new suburban markets. Despite innovative service provisions, there appears to be relatively constant performance in this market area where re- gional population growth is indicated. As reported from sur- vey results, there also appears to be a knowledge gap here. It follows that sufficient performance monitoring data about suburban consumer behavior might help transit agencies to better respond to con~n~uters' needs and to improve the present state of the practice. The expanding suburb-to-suburb travel market offers transit agencies a unique opportunity to tailor their services to meet the needs of the market. The majority of survey respon- dents (87 percent) indicated that their suburb-to-suburb serv- ices were implemented due to increases in suburban travel. PACE in suburban Chicago, an agency specifically designated to serve the suburbs and suburb-to-suburb travel, currently has only a 2 percent market share. Clearly, considerable opportu- nities still exist for transit in this area. The majority of agen- cies responding (74 percent), however, reported that suburb- to-suburb ridership trends are "up" and only two agencies (9 percent) reported ridership on suburb-to-suburb services to be ;'down." Suburban transit services need to be much more highly tailored to the customer than regular fixed route services. Transit agencies must be innovative to capture a significant share of this market, which is largely more affluent and less transit dependent than customers of more traditional transit services. The use of smaller vehicles, demand-response type service, flexible routing, and special promotions with the business community are just some of the ways transit is be- gi~ning to capture this emerging market. If suburb-to-suburb service is to grow, transit agencies need to provide more incentives to customers the automobile is strong competition in the suburbs. Simply putting service out on the street is not enough. Incentives such as guaranteed ride home programs, transit pass programs, merchandise dis- counts, and special outreach to the business co~n~nunity are important elements that should not be overlooked when mar- keting transit service in suburban areas. Currently, the major- ity of agencies responding (83 percent) use transit pass pros grams and nearly two-thirds conduct special outreach to the business community. Many transit agencies are finding that the use of multiple incentives supplemented by marketing on a route, corridor, and employer-by-employer basis are crucial to the success of these services. Since suburban transit is at a competitive disadvantage with the automobile, transit agencies need to be viewed as players and partners in land use decisions. The abundance of free parking, sprawling office parks, poor building siting, and single-use development are just some of the factors that make serving the suburbs difficult. Many transit agencies have de- veloped transit friendly guides for developers and community planners. Early involvement by transit agencies in local land use issues and the development process is necessary to assure that transit is able to serve new suburban develop nets. Transit agency staff, board members, and local transit de- cision makers need to be aware of the different marketing and cost requirements of suburb-to-suburb transit services. Fifty- seven percent (57%) of the agencies surveyed did not use dif- ferent criteria to evaluate suburb-to-suburb services. Because marketing techniques are often different for these types of trips and because the costs of operating these services can be sig- nificantly higher thank those of more traditional transit services, transit agencies need to be aware of the different requirements. Direct marketing to employers, as done by PACE and Seattle Metro, is costly but critical to the success of these services. Also, transit operating costs are often higher due to lower densities and longer trip lengths. If transit board members and decision makers are made aware of these requirements, they can encourage the use of different evaluation criteria for these services. As transit agencies are being challenged to address non- traditional markets, it is useful to evaluate the status of transit agency market planning efforts. Traditional transit marketing plans consist largely of communications and promotional plans with little attention focused on the market segmentation, targeting, and positioning of the value offered to the customer. The private sector has long abandoned the concept of "one size fits all," and has strived to market unique products and serv- ices to increasingly well-defined market niches. Transit has had limited success in this area and perhaps could benefit from the application of private sector marketing practices. There is a need to examine how advanced public transit systems (APTS) and various traffic operations techniques, such as signal preemption' can be used to enhance suburban transit operations. Only one out of 23 survey respondents indi- cated the use of APTS technology. OC Transpo (Toronto, Can- ada) noted its ability to determine the tithe of the next bus via an automated telephone system, and schedule display moni- tors located at major Transitway stations. Many newer suburban services funded with federal or state start-up funding may only be available for a limited period of time. Will these services be continued in the future and who will pay for their operation? The success of these services may hinge on transit's ability to obtain funding front the private sector and/or local communities for their continued operation.