COMMENTARY: Delaware responding to needs of bus riders in Sussex County

Jennifer Cohan, secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation sent the following letter dated Sept. 11, 2018 to the League of Women Voters regarding a letter sent to her regarding inadequate bus service in Sussex County. That letter appeared in the Delaware State News on Aug. 27.

Dear League of Women Voters:

I would like to thank you for advocating on behalf of the Sussex County residents who depend on DART for their transportation needs.

Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), operating DART First State, is committed to providing safe, efficient, and reliable transit services in Delaware, and recognizes the importance of offering reliable and efficient transportation options.

I’m excited to highlight the investments that DTC has made and will continue to make in Sussex, helping to improve the overall customer experience.

DTC has recently expanded on its core bus service in Sussex County, first introduced as year-round service to the towns ofDelmar, Laurel, Seaford, Georgetown, and Lewes in 1997.

Flex services were introduced to Seaford, Georgetown and Millsboro in 2014 to provide expanded transportation options in areas where density doesn’t support traditional transit services.

Jennifer Cohan

Route 215 began in early 2016, providing a vital link between Rehoboth, and along the Route 24 corridor to Millsboro, including Mountaire Farms. In May of 2017, DTC opened the Lewes Transit Center, with a new Park & Ride and expanded service levels on DART’s Beach Bus services, with enhanced connections to Georgetown.

This past May, two new bus routes were initiated — Route 307 weekday express service between Lewes, Milford and Dover, and the Route 210 Milford Circulator.

Beginning Sept. 10, there are 11 year-round routes serving Sussex County, most of which have been expanded to operate on Saturdays. Expanded service hours and trip frequencies offer current and potential DART rider’s better access to employment, education, medical and other types of trips. Schedules are continually being monitored and adjusted as needed twice a year to reflect actual running times, helping to improve on-time performance of the routes, increasing service efficiency and dependability.

Technology also plays a key role in enhancing the customer experience. Utilizing DelDOT’s smartphone app, riders have access to bus schedules and real-time information of the arrival of their bus at any one of DART’s over 2,500 bus stops.

Most recently, DTC launched DART Pass, a new mobile fare payment option allowing customers to purchase their fares anytime, anywhere. The app then displays a digital pass on the phone’s screen, eliminating the need for a paper ticket or cash. This new payment option, also available through the DelDOT app, is convenient, easy to use and allows for faster boarding, contributing to on-time buses.

Next year, keep an eye out for new electric buses in Sussex County, providing DART customers with a clean, quiet ride.

As a whole, DelDOT is committed to providing pedestrians and transit users with a safe and convenient multimodal system. Through our own projects and coordination with developers, we continue to make strides in improving the pedestrian network.

DTC is also committed to providing appropriate passenger facilities for their customers, including the installation of shelters at bus stops in Sussex County that meet their threshold of 10 boardings per day for rural locations.

Our goal is not to deny transit services or amenities to any areas of the state, but rather to provide service to areas identified as those that can successfully support transit with density and the needed infrastructure.

We know the importance of engaging with customers, businesses and community partners.

(Today), DTC will hold its first of four statewide Public Hearing Workshop to present DART’s proposed service changes and gain feedback on services and fare payment options. We hope your membership can join us at the Georgetown Library from 3 to 5 p.m. for the conversation. DTC also plans to connect with employers, businesses, and community partners to discuss employee transportation needs, including shift times and origin/destination information.

These “needs assessment” meetings, which are critical in enhancing current and developing future DART services, are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28 at the Rehoboth Library from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and at the Georgetown Library from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

While DART may not always be the best fit for some, there are other transportation options available. The New Freedom Transportation Program offers transportation solutions to people with disabilities, and ITN of Southern Delaware provides service to seniors and individuals with visual impairment.

Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft can be a good alternative, especially to help with first/last mile issues to connect to bus stops.

I am proud of the DTC team, our accomplishments and our ongoing commitment to meeting the transportation needs of Delawareans as we continue to move forward.

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