Millsboro could get public transit this autumn

Date Published: 
July 4, 2014

Millsboro residents could find themselves directly linked to the nation, as DART prepares a public transit plan that not only makes the basic bus stops, but also allows for deviations up to a mile away.

Although called a “flex” route, the bus would follow the same rules as fixed route service. It would travel the same roads, cost the same amount and be included in the DART Daily Pass.

But it goes farther.

People could call that morning and request a deviation. For an extra $1, the bus will leave the fixed route, up to one mile as the crow flies, to collect people on side streets or outside town limits.

The Millsboro route would begin north in Georgetown, loop downtown, head south to the BJ’s shopping center, loop downtown again and return northward. There are six Millsboro bus stops planned, plus Georgetown Transit Hub.

That line costs $1.50 per person.

As part of DART’s Transit Redesign Plan, Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) hosted a June 26 public information session to get more ideas and fine-tune the proposal.

The entire Sussex County plan includes increased service between Delmar and Georgetown, plus the pilot program for flex bus services in the Georgetown, Millsboro and Seaford areas.

“That’s what we’re thinking, but we want to ask people,” said Julie Theyerl, DTC/DART public affairs officer. “Nothing is set in stone.”

Public hearings will be held in August to present the official proposals. People can make official comments at that time.

“The schedule would be built to allow for deviations,” she said. “We want the frequencies to be hourly. For transit to work,” she noted, buses must come frequently enough that people to catch a second bus if they miss the first.

Sussex County is piloting this program for the entire state, aiming to compensate for its comparative lack of public transit (Kent has 14 routes and New Castle has 44, plus Amtrak).

Existing buses, which look similar to para-transit buses, would be used, Theyerl said. There are also “flag zones” for people to catch a ride.

“I think it’s great for my community, Millsboro Village, the whole Millsboro community,” said resident Konica Castro, who was relieved to hear that low attendance at the public information session wouldn’t diminish DTC’s plans for Millsboro. “Even if they don’t come out today, [people] still need rides.”

Currently without a car, Castro said public transit would give her more options for employment because she could reach farther distances.

“I’m happy they’re getting it now,” Castro said. “I’m just grateful for transportation.”

Millsboro is just one

of many changes

After years of financial trouble and rider complaints, the entire Delaware public transit system is being overhauled by DTC, a subsidiary of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT).

Sussex County only has two regular routes, plus a summertime beach line, so the biggest service it offers today is para-transit.

Despite carrying only 7.8 percent of riders, statewide para-transit cost about 45.4 percent of the public transit budget. Traditional bus lines (fixed route) carried 82.8 percent of riders and used 46.6 percent of the budget.

“It’s difficult for us to expand or get new service,” Theyerl said. “And yet we spend the same amount on both services.”

To fix the unsustainable model, DART has increased fares for the first time in 13 years for Kent and Sussex counties, and even more in New Castle County.

In February, fares became $1.50, or $2 for inter-county travel.

On July 1, para-transit fares increased to $3.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required Delaware to provide para-transit “that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals who use the fixed-route system.”

However, Sussex and Kent actually provided benefits to people beyond that criteria, sometimes not requiring the same application process for all, or allowing elderly riders ADA benefits, although they lacked an ADA-qualifying disability.

Most often, para-transit riders got special door-to-door service, even outside of the 3/4-mile radius DART is required by ADA to provide beyond the regular bus route.

People (even non-ADA folks) were grandfathered into the new rules, so they’re still allowed to ride, and currently, at the same ADA price, although that will likely increase in the future, and other ride options may arise.

As a fixed-route incentive, ADA riders would pay just 60 cents for a fixed-route base fare, instead of the general $1.50.

Plus, people can call in the morning to reserve a ride on the flex route deviation. Paratransit required reservations a full day in advance.

“We want people to tell us what they like and what will work,” Theyerl said.

The full presentation is available at www.dartfirststate.com/rightfit, with more information at 1-800-652-DART, option 2, for Customer Relations.

Comments may be sent to DTC Information Session; P.O. Box 1670; Wilmington, DE 19899-1670 or to DelDOT_Transit_Redesign_Mailbox@state.de.us.