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The season for change…            service changes, that is.

The season of spring brings about change in noticeable ways. Here in the Valley, the days grow longer. The temperatures creep higher. Winter residents head back north. Students count down the days until the school year ends. You can feel change in the air and see it on roadways. A different traffic pattern starts to settle in.

Here at Valley Metro, April brings about changes. Service changes, that is.

It may sound very operational to you and me. However, it’s actually a very involved process that affects many riders who might not even be aware of how the process unfolds. Why should you take note? Today, we’re going to shed some light on why service changes occur, how they may affect you and how the way you ride can make a difference.

Why Change?Family boarding bus

Do you ever wish your bus route made more frequent trips?

Do you think fellow riders would benefit from a newly added route?

Have you noticed that your bus is regularly running behind or off schedule?

These are just three of the many reasons service changes occur. Since bus service is flexible, adjustments can be made on ever-changing needs.

Changes come to Valley Metro twice each year, in April and October. The purpose is to refine the service that’s provided to more than 200,000 daily riders.

Abhi Dayal is the manager of System and Service Development at Valley Metro. He and his team evaluate how you ride the bus on both the ground level and the big picture. At the 30,000 foot level, they consider ways to make the bus system as a whole more efficient. On a micro level, they examine whether individual routes are working the way they should.

“Service changes are an opportunity to make routes more efficient using service standards and performance measures that were recently adopted by Valley Metro and to rectify any issues like low ridership or delays due to roadway congestion that may slow down a route’s travel time,” explained Dayal.

Why do service changes occur twice a year? It gives Valley Metro the opportunity to adjust sooner rather than later.

“If a route is not performing to maximum efficiency, we are not waiting a whole year to make the change,” he said.

Passengers boarding busPerformance and service can be reviewed for further adjustments. Even after a route is changed, it is under constant analysis with operations staff to determine if there are any additional concerns with riders.

A Process with a Purpose

Each month, a group of Valley Metro analysts along with representatives from cities and agencies in the Valley meet to discuss potential changes. This service planning group devises a wish list of what changes may need to be made to various routes then the requested adjustments are analyzed for maximum efficiency.

The designated routes are measured against benchmarks to make sure the requested service will actually be provided. Once a list of proposed changes is identified, it is presented to Valley Metro for information.

What You Say, Matters

After proposed changes are shared with Valley Metro, the public comment period begins and offers you a way to voice your opinion.

You can actually provide your feedback about the routes you take any time of year online or over the phone. But for each service change period, there are a number of ways you can learn about proposed modifications and offer your thoughts. Those include email, online comment cards, social media, webinars, informational sessions and open houses. The public comment period culminates with a public hearing.

“Involving the general public provides helpful information to improve the transit system or better meet the needs of the community,” said Howard Steere, Community Relations Manager.

Outreach for the service changes takes place at or near the affected bus routes and at convenient times.

“The benefit of public engagement is it allows for a more thorough vetting to understand what rider needs are,” Steere said.

Your opinion matters whether it’s to make changes or keep things the way they are. If there are strong opinions against change, it’s presented to the planning group which decides whether to move forward.

“The feedback from the public helps us identify which changes are important to the community,” said Dayal.

Dayal and Steere agree it’s vital to hear from riders especially during the comment period. It gives Valley Metro the opportunity to enhance your riding experience. Valley Metro service changes occur as a way to develop an effective regional transit system that supports Valley communities, businesses and residents.

From Buckeye to Chandler and Surprise to South Mountain, starting April 27, 2015, a total of 20 routes will be added, adjusted or eliminated. To see the full list, click here. To plan your trips, try online tools including e-schedule, NextRide, trip planner and the new Ridekick® mobile app.

The next round of service changes will occur in October 2015 with public input on potential changes taking place in May.

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