JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Faster, more direct and easier to understand -- that's what the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is saying about the overhaul of its entire route system.
In December, JTA created new bus routes, extended hours and offered free service. JTA says the change have led to more passengers.
Reaction from passengers has been positive and negative. Many say the changes have made things confusing, but some say those who are confused just haven't paid attention or asked for help.
"The results are kind of the proof in the pudding that we've got a system that's faster, more direct, easier to understand, and the trips are quicker," said Nathaniel Ford Sr., the CEO of JTA.
He says he's excited about the results of their route optimization program. "It has been fantastic. We're seeing some positive results that were not what we were originally expecting. We thought we might see a flattening, maybe even a decline of our ridership but we've seen significant growth."
Data shows that ridership from 2014 to 2015 from December to March has been up every month since the new routes launched.
Ford says- as expected, there have been some bumps in the road, including many riders being unhappy about the removing and relocating some bus stops.
"There used to be elderly people who would only walk a block, but now they have to walk three or four blocks," comments Tonya Thompson, a JTA rider. Latoya Ellington, another woman who also takes JTA says "some parts of town, the bus stops are taken out so that's an inconvenience to some of the people."
Ford says it's an ongoing work in progress and many riders are happy with the changes- saying it's not that complicated.
"Sometimes I think it's just common sense. Usually people aren't paying attention or just forget," said Alexandria Cous.
Ford says there won't be any other major overhauls any time soon but they will add a few small adjustments in July and December.
Ford and other JTA officials just returned from the American Public Transportation Association Conference where they gave a presentation to hundreds of nationwide transit companies on how they successfully implemented the route optimization program.