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Wave Transit expects to maintain current budget -- with help from Wilmington and New Hanover County

The latest Wave route map includes increased service between downtown and the hospital.
Wave Transit
The latest Wave route map includes increased service between downtown and the hospital.

The planned local support will bridge the gap of a coming fiscal cliff that's long threatened Wave.

Wave Transit has put forward a tentative budget that maintains its current level of service.

The budget shows hope that the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County will support the transit service with increased local funding to fill a gap from sunsetting federal programs. Local government funding would bridge a $750,000 gap from non-renewing federal funds.

Wave Executive Director Mark Hairr says they have modified routes to improve service and increase frequency, even with an unchanged budget figure. "In a way, we're going to do more with the same amount of money," he says.

Wave has paired two routes together for the region’s first ever 15-minute service frequency between downtown and the medical center — routes 205 and 210. Other routes get increased service, too.

“The greatest advantages and benefits to our riders are going to be the increased frequency. That is we'll have a lot more service that runs 30 minutes, instead of every hour.”

Hairr also has a plan for a 30% increase in funding which would add more 15-minute service routes — that would create a frequency high enough that many so-called "choice riders" may begin using the service. These coveted riders take public transit by choice, not by need, but are unlikely to do so if they need to consult a schedule in order to do it.

Hairr has high hopes, he says. "Our vision is if we can get this first set of improvements implemented here and show the success, we certainly think, based on all the analysis we've done and what's going on around the country in terms of increased frequencies and more direct trips, which generates more ridership, that we could build on that success and hopefully add an even more frequent service."

But those plans will have to wait for a future year.

The Wave Transit Board will vote to finalize its cost-neutral budget on June 27, after the city and county finalize their own budgets. It's currently set at a budget of just under $14 million.

What else is in the plan?

Hairr says there's another benefit to the new plan: "Shorter ride times on the bus. So we're taking out some of the loops and winding through certain neighborhoods and areas with more direct routing."

There's a lot more to the plan, with full details available here. A list of major changes recommended under the planned funding is available below (note, the 'we' is referring to Wave staff):

• The introduction of Wave’s first ever frequent (15 minute) service. The new network would provide service every 15 minutes on weekdays with Route 205 Greenfield-Shipyard and Route 210 Greenfield-17th St operating on the same streets between Padgett Station and New Hanover Medical Center.

• Service for more hours of the day on Wave’s highest ridership routes. On weekdays, Route 108 Market St. and Route 205 Greenfield-Shipyard would begin operating one hour earlier at 5 AM. They would end service one hour later at 9 PM on weekdays and one hour later on weekends. And on Sundays, these routes and Route 101 Princess Place would begin operating earlier in the morning.

• Redesigned routes that provide more direct, faster, and more reliable service. Most routes would be redesigned to travel further faster by spending less time winding through neighborhoods and more time traveling directly to their destinations. For example, westbound trips on Route 108 Market Street will now be about 5 minutes faster on most trips.

• More frequent service on New Centre Drive and College Road and new 30-minute Saturday service on Route 108. Route 109 Forden-Shipyard (a new route) and Route 107 College Rd would together provide combined 30-minute service between Oleander Drive and Forden Station via New Centre Drive and College Road seven days a week. And Route 108 Market St would provide new 30-minute Saturday service.

• A more frequent Port City Trolley that operates later into the evening and on Sundays. A redesigned Trolley would shuttle riders every 30 minutes between Castle Street and Padgett Station via Front Street. The Trolley would provide new Sunday service. It is proposed to provide seasonal service only, operating March through September when downtown activity is at its peak.

• A new extended Route 206 Oleander Dr that directly connects Padgett Station to Mayfaire every hour. Route 206 is proposed to operate every hour and would replace some existing Route 103 Oleander East and Route 104 East service via Wooster/Dawson Streets, Oleander Drive, and Military Cutoff Rd.

•Expanded RideMICRO service in Northern New Hanover County and Mayfaire. RideMICRO Zone 4 would be expanded north to provide new service to Castle Hayne. Zone 2 would provide service within New Hanover County only but be expanded south to include the Mayfaire area and operate 7 days/week.

• New Ultra-Frequent Grey Shuttle service to UNCW. Service every 6 minutes on weekdays would be provided by a redesigned Grey Shuttle. We’re also recommending that the Blue Shuttle and Teal Shuttle be combined to provide a more useful circulator connecting campus to residences, shopping, & Forden Station. The CREST Shuttle would be replaced by more cost-effective RideMICRO Zone 3 service.

• Updated UNCW Blue Shuttle schedule that is better matched to class times. In response to public feedback, we’ve updated the schedule of the recommended Blue Shuttle to arrive to Leutze Hall at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour to ensure riders have ample time to reach campus buildings.

• Updated Route 205 Greenfield-Shipyard route design that operates via Doctors Circle. In response to public feedback, we’ve updated Route 205’s southbound route design to operate via Doctors Circle between South 17th Street and Medical Center Drive. This updated alignment will provide safer front door access to major medical and housing destinations in this area.

• Additional bus stops on College Road to improve access. In response to public feedback, we’ve updated our recommendations for Route 107 College Road and Route 109 Shipyard/College to include additional new bus stops on College Road at Randall Parkway/Randall Drive and near the intersection of Fountain Drive. These additional stops will improve access for riders, especially those who currently ride Route 108 Market Street on Randall Parkway.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.