The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority is taking its first steps toward improving its bus stops.
During the next three months — until May 1 — WATA will grade all 300 of them. Transit planner Ben Goodill is performing the work by going from stop to stop and filling out his grade sheet.
“We’re doing this study ourselves. WATA has new bus signs, so as we’ve been going to all the stops and switching out bus signs we’ve been doing an assessment of the stops,” Goodill said. The new signs are reflective and easier for WATA drivers to recognize from further distances, according to Goodill.
To get a top grade, stops must pass a defined set of criteria, including boarding, lighting, available space, route services, public utilities and whether there is a sidewalk next to the bus stop.
Boarding factors in ridership data, which includes the number of people who get on and off at individual stops.
When grading public utilities, Goodill takes measurements and looks at what’s on site that would cause any ground disturbance, such as telephone poles and light poles, should WATA decide to build a shelter. A shelter is 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep and needs a foot of space around the outside.
Goodill said since he started in late December, he’s already graded about 120 bus stops. Weather permitting, he said he grades between 35 and 40 stops a week, and each assessment takes about 10 minutes.
WATA communications specialist Michele Canty said the organization has graded bus stops in the past, but not this thoroughly.
“It’s not that we haven’t graded stops before, but never to this level,” Canty said. "This is why we’re doing this now, because we’re looking at growth.”
WATA said they have $150,000 budgeted for bus stop improvements in this calendar year. The authority may purchase about 10 shelters, but hasn’t identified locations where they’d be put up yet.
Shelters cost anywhere from $6,000 to $11,000, and benches cost $600 and $1,200, according to Goodill.
“We want to get to a point where we’re making our planning decisions based on data, numbers and statistical information,” Goodill said. “The main goal of the grading is to see what we have at the bus stops and look at what we need in the future.”
WATA said they talk with bus riders about their needs and are responsive to requests for new bus stops.
“At this point, I haven’t had that much interaction with the every-day rider,” Goodill said. “Most of the feedback I get comes from dispatch or the drivers.”
As far as grading its stops and making improvements, WATA said it comes down to making sound financial choices.
“We don’t want WATA riders standing out in the rain, cold or bad weather,” Can’t said. “Unfortunately, we have a finite amount of resources and we’re trying to identify where there’s the greatest need. We look at all kinds of factors when it comes to planning bus stops. The question is what improvements can we do and what’s fiscally responsible.”
Riders advisory committee
In conjunction with improving bus stops, Canty said WATA is looking for people to join its riders advisory committee.
The group meets every three months and helps identify transportation needs and provides WATA administration with feedback and recommendations for improving issues affecting WATA customers.
Canty said right now the committee has three active members and would like to get at least 10.
Email info@goWATA.org if you’re interested in joining.
Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.