Although COTA officials appreciate the passion riders of an express route have for the service they use, it is premature to worry about possible elimination of any routes, COTA Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Customer Service Marty Stutz said last week.
Stutz was responding to concerns expressed by regular riders of the Smoky Row Express Route 30 bus who fear a Transit Service Review now under way will eventually mean they have to find another way to get to their jobs downtown.
The Smoky Row Riders believe two of three approaches proposed as part of the full-system review process, which is expected to be completed in September, would result in their express route being cut.
"When we do a study like this, and that's what this is, a study of how we provide service throughout our system, a component of everything we do is always public involvement," Stutz said.
"We're happy that people are committed to COTA, committed to the service, that the service is valuable to them and that we have agreed to engage with them.
"We have no plans whatsoever to reduce service," he added.
"The process that we're going through ... is to look at different scenarios as to how we could provide service with the resources the taxpayers have entrusted us with."
The page on the website devoted to the Transit System Review outlines three scenarios that are under consideration for the future of COTA service.
One embraces an approach geared at garnering more riders by concentrating service where it's used the most.
The other would lean toward extending service to as wide an area as possible.
Only the latter approach would probably spare Smoky Row Express Route 30 from elimination, some members of the group of frequent riders maintain.
Members of the group feel the ridership-intensive scenario is the one most COTA officials favor.
"It seems like they want to turn from a suburban service to more of an inner city, urban service," member Linda Schupe said.
"Those are two extremes," Stutz said.
"Somewhere in the middle between those two extremes we think there exists and ideal way for us to provide maximum, responsible transit service ... and this process will help us get there."
Once the study is concluded, COTA officials will look at maps and levels of service to come up with possible recommendations to be shared with the public and members of the board of directors, he added.
"Only then we will engage in the process of possibly making decisions," Stutz said. "We may make changes to our system based on some of the outcomes of the Transit System review. We may just tweak it, make some minor changes.
"We're at the early stages of a yearlong study of our service. There is no intention to reduce the service we provide. We certainly don't want to take service from any particular area."