ORT to improve efficiency, considers free service

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 50 views 

Springdale-based transit provider Ozark Regional Transit has plans to improve efficiency by cutting some service and increasing the frequency of buses along routes in Fayetteville. At the same time, Fayetteville-based transit provider Razorback Transit will handle service along the routes on which ORT would stop providing service, said Joel Gardner, ORT executive director.

The move would reduce the duplication in services that ORT and Razorback Transit provide in Fayetteville, he said. It also would allow ORT to increase bus frequency to 30 minutes, from an hour, on two routes — from downtown to uptown, between Hillcrest Towers and Northwest Arkansas Mall, and a loop through the uptown area, including stops at the Arkansas Department of Human Services office and Razorback Cinema Grill & Imax.

Also, plans are in the works for ORT to offer its bus service for free in Fayetteville. Razorback Transit offers fare-free service. Gardner said this would not only decrease passenger confusion when switching from one bus service to another, but it would also improve arrival times by eliminating the need for passengers to dig into their pockets to retrieve money for bus fares.

However, before ORT can offer the free rides, it would need to resolve a $63,000 annual revenue shortfall as ORT receives more than 40% of fares it collects on Northwest Arkansas routes from its Fayetteville routes, Gardner said. He will look to Fayetteville City Council to see if they would want the fare-free service, but he’s uncertain when he might have the opportunity to request this in front of the city council.

Gardner would like to see the service changes and free rides put into place starting Aug. 20. He declined to speculate on whether other Northwest Arkansas cities in which ORT operates would want fare-free service, but he said if Fayetteville were to go fare free, it would offer other cities a test case to determine its success.

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