Herald-Sun editorial: Transit improvements made, but work remains

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 08:16 PM

The Durham Area Transit Authority reported to the City Council recently about changes to its route network and resulting on-time performance figures.

Officials from Triangle Transit, which operates public transit for the Triangle area and manages Durham’s bus system, said that more extensive changes for DATA’s route network will begin on Jan. 5. More information on those changes can be found at http://www.gotriangle.org/go-info/DATAservicechanges.

Officials have set a goal of 90 percent on-time performance, which DATA has not met, although improvements have been shown. That is a positive, and DATA’s system of working toward improvements appears to be well thought-out.

Transportation is such an important service for so many residents of our communities. We deserve the best performance possible for the money spent.

The three route changes made in late September show significant improvement. One, to north Durham along the Guess Road corridor, resulted in improvement from 51 percent to 80 percent and better. A second, to Duke University along Hillsboro Road, showed improvement from 29 percent to 88 percent. A third, serving Duke along West Chapel Hill Street, Erwin Road and Neal Road, did not show as substantial an increase in on-time performance, and remains a concern.

Also a concern was a survey result that showed drivers were not as helpful in addressing route changes as they could have been. Triangle Transit ordered a survey of customer service performance that said passengers did not feel their questions about changes were answered by DATA drivers.

“I’m hopeful your training will be adequate and significantly improved,” Councilwoman Diane Catotti told the officials. “It was disturbing to hear [that in the first round] the customer service was not there and drivers were not being helpful in addressing changes.”

That training included briefings in November and refresher training leading up to the changes on Jan. 5, which included a number of routes. Direct-mail notices will be sent to 10,000 households on the changes, and online videos and other information is also being made available.

Training is also being increased for drivers and managers. Drivers are the first line of inquiry for passengers when it comes to any sort of changes on routes, so that training, and the rest of the preparations being made, make perfect sense.