Metroplan Study Examines Conway To Little Rock Bus Route

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 118 views 

A Metroplan study released Monday detailed how an express bus route could be developed between Conway and Little Rock. The big question – whether enough commuters would use it to make it financially worthwhile – remains unclear.

The Conway-Little Rock Express Bus Feasibility Study envisions a 32-mile route with five initial stops – two in Conway, one in North Little Rock, and two in Little Rock, including at the State Capitol complex.

The study said that, based on ridership in other parts of the country, the system could serve 75-90 riders daily during a four-year start-up phase and 150-200 daily during the following build-out phase, which would occur in year five and beyond. It envisioned round-trip costs of $6 if standard buses are used and $8 if nicer motor coaches are used. Monthly passes would be offered. The target market includes “choice riders” – those who have a car but who would select public transportation for economic reasons or convenience.

The system would be managed by a private operator, by Central Arkansas Transit Authority, or by Conway and Faulkner County. The report envisions that federal funding could be available, particularly at start-up, and that the routes could be subsidized using federal, state and local funds. It noted that “the vast majority” of public transportation systems are subsidized and that “the consultant project team has been unable to identify any local commuter express bus services that are completely privately funded and operated.”

Costs during the start-up phase would range form $635,000 to $1,385,000 before dropping to between $600,000 and $900,000 during the buildout phase. Annual operating costs after the start-up phase would range between $435,000 and $511,000, depending on the management structure.

The study was initiated in August 2013 by Metroplan, the Central Arkansas Transit Authority, the cities of Conway, Little Rock and North Little Rock, and Faulkner and Pulaski Counties. Metroplan is a voluntary association of local governments in Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline and Lonoke Counties.

During the start-up phase, two buses would run from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. and again between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., with the buses making the trip every 60 minutes. During the build-out phase, two buses and additional stops could be added with stops occurring every 30 minutes.

The route would include two stops in Conway at the I-40/Skyline interchange and the I-40/Dave Ward Drive/Industrial Boulevard interchange. The route would pass through North Little Rock before stopping first at the River Cities Travel Center and then the State Capitol. From there it would stop in North Little Rock on Main Street between East Broadway and Washington before returning to Conway.

A survey that was conducted online and at Ecofest in Conway last September found that 42 percent of respondents would “definitely, if schedule allows” use an express bus service and that 40 percent would use it “definitely, to save money on gas.” Thirty-six percent said they would use it daily.