Bus shakeup tests riders

Route changes will provide better service, agency says
2012-12-03T20:30:00Z 2012-12-05T20:25:07Z Bus shakeup tests ridersPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
December 03, 2012 8:30 pm  • 

After months of anticipation, the new VINE bus routes debuted in Napa on Monday and were accompanied by slight hiccups — some buses ran late, while some riders were confused, lost or irritable.

But staff with the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency (NCTPA) said these issues were to be expected given the magnitude of the changes, and riders seemed willing to give the agency a chance to work out the problems with the new routes.

The routes were redesigned to make them shorter, quicker and more direct to major destinations throughout the city, with more connections to other routes. Most routes will now have buses running every half-hour, instead of hourly service.

The majority of the routes flow through the new Soscol Gateway Transit Center on Fourth and Burnell streets, often at a rate of more than 20 buses per hour.

Truncating the routes meant some riders had to walk farther to bus stops, while others had to transfer between routes when they didn’t need to before.

But the redesign should provide improved service to the vast majority of VINE riders, NCTPA Assistant Planner Diana Meehan said Monday. Meehan was one of several people at the new transit center to help riders adjust to the new system.

“For the great, great majority of people, I think the system is a great, great improvement,” Meehan said.

The changes provoked a massive amount of phone calls from residents, and customer service representatives were tied up answering them for much of Monday, Meehan said.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” Meehan said. “There’s no break in the phone ringing. The call volume was huge.”

She said she hadn’t seen any rider with questions lose composure and resort to shouting or outbursts. “I haven’t seen anybody completely irate,” she said.

Napa resident Joseph Carroll said his bus was running late Monday, turning a normal 20-minute ride into a 45-minute ride, but he was willing to be patient and let the new system take hold.

“I think once they get it down it will be a little smoother and more effective,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he had notice of the changes, given that NCTPA was advertising them extensively, but

wasn’t able to get information on the new routes by calling the agency.

“Getting through on the telephone was not going to happen,” Carroll said.

Napa resident Kerina Stoner said she rides the VINE from south Napa to her job at Trancas and Jefferson streets, and was pleased to see that the new routes will be more frequent. In the past, she said if one bus ran late she’d miss her transfer. She hopes to avoid that in the future.

“If the bus was late I’d miss the transfer, then I’d be late for work,” Stoner said. “I like that it’s more frequent. That helps a lot. It’s a little bit easier to understand.”

Napa resident Vivian Avanzino said she’s been riding the bus around Napa for 20 years, and wasn’t pleased with the new routes. She said she didn’t like the route’s direction, and having to wait for a connection at the new transit center. She did like the increased frequency, but said she wishes the old routes would have remained.

“I wish we would have stayed where we were before,” Avanzino said.

Art Coleman of Napa said he’s been riding the VINE for about three years since getting into a car accident, and uses it mostly to get back and forth from doctor’s appointments. While the new routes mean more walking for him, he’s not unhappy about it — it means more exercise, he said.

Given he pays discounted fares for being a senior citizen, Coleman said he was also willing to wait out whatever problems NCTPA might have with the new routes.

“The price is right,” Coleman said.

Meehan said NCTPA hopes to help riders through this transition period, and offers volunteers, known as transit ambassadors, to help anyone get acquainted with riding the new routes. They’re available by calling 707-259-8778.

“The hard part for most people is the transition period,” Meehan said. “That’s what we’re in right now, and we’re going to be in it for a while. We know that people are going to need help and we need to help them.”

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(7) Comments

  1. Napa
    Report Abuse
    Napa - December 03, 2012 11:44 pm
    I confered earlier with Tom Roberts Public Transit Manager, and he took the time to sync our PCs to the bus site and check out route maps. He was extremely helpful and made sense in every way. Thanks to him, working since 6:am with no break and me calling him at 7:00pm he was a gem in directions and helping. It will indeed take time to work out the bugs and the system to assure everyone know their busses and routes to and fro. Glad we have staff that willl help us in a kinder gentler way. as well as a much smoother ride.
  2. bluecollardoctor
    Report Abuse
    bluecollardoctor - December 04, 2012 10:25 am
    Well, it remains to be seen if it will make any difference, but Vine had to do something. The Route 10 was always about 15min late and the GPS tracking on the website hardly ever worked.
  3. aroseisarose
    Report Abuse
    aroseisarose - December 04, 2012 4:30 pm
    Well, I've been riding the 5A for the past 6 years which is now the 3. I think it is a VAST improvement. My ride length is 20 mins. shorter, I get off closer to my destination and, so far, "Where's My bus?" is working just fine. Awesome, NCTPA!
  4. Rustydog
    Report Abuse
    Rustydog - December 05, 2012 8:43 am
    What's up with service to Napa Valley College. No direct service from much of Napa, and
    bus stop leaves you with 8 minute walk once you get to bus stop for NVC. Used to allow
    45 minutes to get to college, now have to allow 2 hours if were to continue using bus to
    college. NO THANKS
  5. Rustydog
    Report Abuse
    Rustydog - December 05, 2012 11:19 am
    Lousy bus service to Napa Valley College with new routes.
    From Old Town I used to leave house at 10.15am for 11.00am class and no transfer required.
    According to trip planner I would have to leave house at 9.34am for my 11am class.
    According to Google maps I can walk to class in 35 minutes from my house so I could leave at
    Drive myself to class 7 minutes
    How about looping the buses around Napa Valley College instead of South Napa Marketplace or even both if necessary.
  6. Napper
    Report Abuse
    Napper - December 05, 2012 2:05 pm
    The bus service to the college is AWESOME. It has been dramatically INCREASED with buses coming directly onto campus as frequently as every 15 minutes! You need to check out the routes 10 and 11. The campus sent out an email blast about this.
  7. Rustydog
    Report Abuse
    Rustydog - December 05, 2012 4:34 pm
    It may be AWESOME to you, but it's kind of like a store sale with "up to 90% off." If the
    "as frequently as every 15 minutes!" happens to be every hour during the times you
    need to use the bus, and the bus arrives a few minutes after your class starts so you need
    to arrive almost an hour early it isn't so AWESOME. If you have to transfer buses to take
    the last .1 mile to get to campus it isn't so good. Why can't the West Napa area be served
    with direct service to NVC without transffering buses? My daily travel and wait time will increase over an hour with the new "AWESOME" service.
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