Several route changes expected for Concord Kannapolis transit

Several proposed route changes to Concord Kannapolis Area Transit’s “Rider” bus system are expected to help improve on-time performance and reduce the number of miles the buses travel.

The changes are expected to take place in November, said L.J. Weslowski, manager of Concord Kannapolis Area Transit. But he and other transit officials still have to review comments offered by the public during recent presentations and electronically through social media and the transit’s website.

Public comments can be submitted online, via mail or in person at the Transit Center, 3600 S. Ridge Ave. in Concord, through Sept. 14.

Currently, the system’s buses run on schedule roughly 55 to 75 percent of the time, depending on the route. On-time performance is achieved when a bus runs within 5 minutes of published schedules, said Weslowski, who wants that number to increase to at least 90 percent.

Different savings of time are projected for each of the system’s seven routes. Some changes would shave nearly 4 minutes from roundtrip times, while others would reduce the trip by more than 9 minutes.

The number of miles buses travel would be reduced by roughly 144 miles on weekdays and 113 miles on Saturdays and Sundays.

Several areas in Kannapolis that aren’t served by the system – Winecoff School Road, Orphanage Road, lower Oakwood Avenue, Lane Street, Wright Avenue, Brantley Road, Midlake Avenue and Centergrove Road – would be added to routes, and two-way service would replace one-way service to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s south and business/technical campuses in Concord.

“There hasn’t really been much opposition to anything proposed so far, save for one person at the first meeting did say they would like the Social Security Office to remain on the Purple Route, even if it’s used infrequently,” Weslowski said.

“Another liked the idea of adding an outbound stop at the RCCC Technology & Business Campus (in Concord) on the Purple Route, which only serves that location coming inbound. But that addition could only occur if service into Kmart (on Concord Parkway) was discontinued.”

Those who attended public presentations about the changes have agreed that the buses run behind schedule too often, Weslowski said. That is the main impetus behind the proposed changes, he said.

The 10-year-old system started with six buses on six routes during its first 12 months of service, taking more than 200,000 trips during that period.

During the last 12 months, it has grown to seven buses on seven routes making more than 477,000 trips, Weslowski said. He estimated the system would carry its 4-millionth passenger in October.

As the populations of Concord and Kannapolis grow, so does traffic congestion, which hinders on-time performance.

“With the significant increase in traffic, and the increase in the number of people using Rider, our buses run much slower along their routes than they used to when we first started service a decade ago,” Weslowski said.

“That has led to the situation where we can no longer reliably make our stops at their scheduled time during much of the day,” he said. “A public transit service that cannot run close to its planned and published schedule for significant stretches of time is a disservice to its customers.”

Rider’s annual budget is more than $3.29 million, which includes federal, state and local funding. Roughly $1.71 million comes from federal sources; $283,000 from the state; $248,000 from fares; $473,000 from vehicle tag fees; and a total of $578,000 from Concord’s and Kannapolis’ general funds.

Improving on-time performance is a key point in Rider’s recent Transit Development Plan, which was completed and adopted earlier this year by the Transit Commission, a group of elected officials from Concord and Kannapolis.

But Weslowski admits not all the changes would be helpful to riders. He said some changes would cause a reduction in service in order to get the extra time needed on the routes.

“Without time savings gained on each route, we will continue to lose the battle of trying to stay on schedule,” he said. “(The public’s) input will help determine if the recommended changes stay as is, or if they are adjusted or altered.”

Concord councilman Alfred Brown Jr., who serves on the Transit Commission, said the goal of the proposed route changes is to improve customer service as the future of federal funding remains unclear.

“The commission is doing everything it can … (but) funding will be a major concern for the foreseeable future,” Brown said. “Until this funding issue is clarified, I would not venture to predict any major expansion plans.”