SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — METRO RTA has been working for the last couple years to develop a “Reimagined Network” that increases opportunities for Summit County residents by expanding access to destinations, officials said.
As the draft plans stand, Summit County residents will be able to access 67% more jobs within 45 minutes using transit than they could with the existing network, said Valerie Shea, METRO’s director of planning and strategic development.
The draft plan is designed to substantially improve access to jobs for marginalized populations, such as people of color and the area’s low-income population, METRO said.
“We want to make sure that we're serving our transit-loyal passengers the best we can, and serving those places that we have high ridership in the best possible way,” Shea said.
In the current stage of the process, METRO is looking specifically at its fixed route network — what roads do the buses travel on, how can frequency be increased and how can the routes be made more efficient?
“This is kind of putting the rubber to the road, so to speak, on what exactly those details are,” Shea said.
Under the revised plan, access improves across METRO’s service area and improves as growth scenarios are applied, METRO said.
For example, under the new plan, if riders in some high-traffic areas have to walk a little further to a bus stop, it likely also means that bus will arrive with greater frequency, such as every 15 minutes as opposed to once an hour, she said.
That same principal would apply to high-frequency locations people might frequent for shopping or to visit medical facilities, she said.
New connections are also included in the draft plan in Cuyahoga County at the South Gate Transit Center and in Kent in Portage County, she said.
Nothing will be implemented until 2023, but in the meantime, METRO wants residents to take a close look at the draft plan and weigh in.
METRO plans to gather input in several ways, including a quick online survey that’s live now.
An interactive, color-coded network map enables riders to view existing routes, next to the new routes.
To showcase the draft plan and gather input on it from the community, METRO is hosting a public open house, scheduled to run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, at the Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center, located at 631 S. Broadway St. in downtown Akron.
METRO is also hosting a webinar starting at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 22, to provide more information on the draft plan on the new network. For more information, residents can call 330-762-0341.
The Reimagined Network is a result of METRO’s 10-year strategic planning process that took place just before the pandemic began, Shea said. The work continued through the pandemic, rebranding METRO as a regional mobility provider and re-examining METRO’s services.
Early in the process, METRO said it would consider some innovative additions to the network, such as including UBER in its mix of offerings.
“We will be looking at new mobility options and what partnerships could be a part of that in the coming months,” Shea said. “But that's not fully developed yet. But certainly nothing is off the table.”
Once METRO has collected community input through its outreach process, it will evaluate it, make changes to the draft plan and create an implementation plan, she said. The final plan would launch in 2023.
For more information, visit METRO’s Reimagined Network website.