“Garrison Left His Mark On the System”
and other great things about what Ron Garrison has done for those that rely on the public transportation systems in their cities.
Our Opinion: StarMetro honored
Garrison left his mark on the system
6:28 PM, Jan 10, 2013
Ron Garrison, who was executive director of StarMetro for nearly eight years, is gone, having started the New Year with a new job with a transit company in Greenville, S.C.
But Mr. Garrison left Tallahassee’s bus system with a gift — a redesigned, decentralized bus system that this week earned StarMetro the National Planning Excellence Award for Transportation from the American Planning Association.
StarMetro’s old system was a hub-and-spoke system, with riders taking buses to the C.K. Steele Plaza downtown, where they then would transfer to another bus taking them to their destination. Mr. Garrison realized that fewer than 10 percent of passengers had downtown as their final stop, so why take them there?
In July 2011, StarMetro instituted a new, decentralized system, with the goal of fewer overlapping routes and fewer trips downtown.
The change wasn’t without issues. Some riders complained that they had to walk farther to their stops. With transfers now taking place on major roads rather than in stations, there were safety concerns. And the changes left some areas of the city with little or no service.
Those concerns were addressed, and the APA in honoring Tallahassee noted the public participation in the creation of the new system as well as the system’s successes:
- Transfers at the C.K. Steele Plaze were reduced by 30 percent.
- Total transfers were reduced by 14 percent.
- Where 21 routes used to share at least one mile of service with another route, today only six routes do so.
Perhaps most important, ridership increased (from July 2011 to June 2012, it was up 2.5 percent over the three previous years), and without any significant increase in cost.
The city of Tallahassee also points to other successes, such as installing more than 50 shelters or benches and improving the average bus frequency from 51 minutes down to 34 minutes.
In December, looking back on his time at StarMetro, Mr. Garrison said: “I’ll take all the darts and arrows. I knew this would be very hard, but I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. We created a system that laid a foundation for the future of Tallahassee. With the other system there was no real way to improve or expand it without totally exploding the cost.”
Certainly, there always is room for improvement. City commissioners are considering building more shelters and perhaps paving grassy areas where passengers wait.
But overall, the system works. The city can offer thanks to Mr. Garrison, and claim its award with pride.