Within the next 25 years, Thurston County is projected to grow in population by roughly 130,000. Those 130,000 people will need to get around just as much as current residents – how are we going to handle all the extra traffic? This exact question is what Intercity Transit wants to answer in order to develop a forward-thinking plan for the next 20 years. To do this, they are asking the public for their input through their “IT Road Trip,” an outreach program aimed at identifying public expectations for future transportation services. You can participate by taking the Intercity Transit Survey through the end of September.
“Better transportation takes planning,” says Ann Freeman-Manzanares, Intercity Transit general manager. “We’re casting a wide net to ask every person and group we can reach for their opinion on what services we should provide to meet the needs of our community.”
Between now and September, Intercity Transit volunteers, board members and staff will be conducting in-person interviews at transit centers, community events and civic and business meetings. Surveys also are available on the buses, at community libraries and online.
“One of the intents is to not just get rider input, but to get input from all residents in the community since in the future they may need or want to use public transit as our roads get more congested or due to life changes,” says Rena Shawver, Intercity Transit marketing, communications and outreach manager. “And every resident in Thurston County – whether they ride public transit or not – is affected by our traffic patterns and commute patterns.”
Of course, many people use public transit as their sole way of getting around. This includes those who need to get to and from work, local college students and the elderly. For these populations, a 33 percent increase in the population could really cause trouble if even half of those people also required public transit, just in terms of room on the buses. Intercity Transit’s goal is to create a forward-thinking project plan that can address the impact of the population increase and make public transportation convenient and accessible.
After Intercity Transit has collected resident input, they will compile the findings and report back to the community on what we said was most important when it comes to improvements or changes. Findings will be shared through meetings, one-on-ones and local news sites, as well as their own website. They hope to publish the report in early 2018.
Once the projects have been decided upon, Intercity Transit will then work on funding. They will ask the public to prioritize the chosen projects based on available funds. If the projects fit into current funding budgets, they may be completed quickly, in as little as 6 years. If the projects require outside funding, it will lengthen that timeline – as far out as 20 years.
“Our mission is to help create a community that is livable, healthy, prosperous and accessible for everyone that lives, works, visits, and plays here. We need to know what services people would like to keep or add, how to make the system easier to use and hear the community’s ideas for improving the quality and efficiency of public transportation options,” says Freeman-Manzanares.
The survey just launched and they have already had over 1,200 responses, but are hoping to reach many more. “The more the merrier,” smiles Shawver. “We can’t meet the public’s needs if we don’t know what they are.”
They are seeing some trends when it comes to responses already. Some of the popular responses include: increased service on weekdays and weekends; increased early morning and evening services; more services to Hawks Prairie and surrounding areas; more services that connect Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater; More bus stops that are marked with bus times; and more express transit options with direct service from Olympia to Seattle.
Like the ideas mentioned above? Have something different you think is important? Take the survey and let your voice be heard.
To take the brief “Design a Better Transit System” survey, simply visit ITRoadTrip.net. Survey participants will get a chance to win a $250 VISA Gift Card. For more information about their outreach program “IT Road Trip,” visit the Intercity Transit Road Trip website.