There has been plenty of discussions about the mass transit system here in Anniston/Oxford. The Anniston Trolley system is run by the East Alabama Regional Planning Commission. The ACTS trolley system consists of four small buses that runs on fixed routes on Monday – Saturday. In the Anniston Star article last week, the commission said they are going to add bus stop signage, and extend hours by starting at 6 am, instead of 7 am. Alabama Limousine, who runs the trolley system, said that even though gas prices have come down, the reason why ridership is still high is because people find the trolley system convenient. That’s not the real reason, and it’s because I ride the trolley system, and have talked to the bus drivers and passengers.
The real reason bus ridership is sill high is because of the local economy here in Anniston/Oxford. This metro has one of the worst economies in the United States, the entire country! Many people ride the trolley system because they are out of work, they have a job but it pays so little, or because they are on disability, which a lot people are on here. The bus system even gives a .50 cent discount to people who are elders, children, on disability or Medicaid/Medicare. And let me tell you, most of the bus drivers don’t even look for proof of being on disability or being on Medicaid/Medicare. The passengers just tell them they pay .50 cents, and that is it!
The one bus driver who actually wanted to see proof of a young person who was on Medicaid got into an ugly shouting and cuss word match. And I have been on the bus where people were fighting, and other passengers had to break up the fight. Oh, and one bus driver actually shown me someone who paid the $1 fare using fake money. I could go on and on about the problems I have seen on the Anniston trolley system. But, I wanted to talk about four major problems the trolley system has here in this town, and ways to make them better.
1. The buses are too small!
The buses only have around 30 seats per bus! And most of the time, that is not enough seats, and it forces people to stand, which is unsafe and illegal I think. Just this past month, I was on the trolley system when I had to stand up, because every seat was taken. And a handicap person was on the bus as well. It was overcramped and unsafe.
So trolley system, you need to upgrade your buses to bigger ones! Those small buses are not big enough! Over 120,000 people uses the trolley system, and those small buses can not handle the crowds. You need to upgrade to the buses the Jacksonville Gamecock Express uses, it would help here!
2. The bus drivers don’t follow their routes
Yep, I have been on several buses that has the drivers not following their routes, to save time. Some drivers don’t follow the exact routes, especially on the last 5 pm run, one driver actually told me it’s a race for the drivers to get back to the bus parking lot so they would not be the last one there. And I have been stranded quite a few times because the bus drivers do not turn to go to the Oxford Public Library(part of the route), and it’s a long three mile walk back home!
So, I have a good idea! Why not install GPS trackers on the trolleys. The Gamecock Express already does this, and you can actually go to a website and track to see where the buses are at in real time. This would let passengers know where they buses are at, and it would hold the bus drivers accountable!
3. The buses take too long
The bus routes are taking longer and longer to complete. Especially the north and south routes. During the last part of the day, it is not surprising to see the buses 10-20 minutes late. I have already said to the drivers that the buses needs to have their routes examined. And maybe it’s time to add a fifth bus route, one that can go to the Oxford Exchange, and other areas like the college. It would trim the routes off the other four buses, and make sure the buses are never late, unless an emergency happens, like a bus breaking down.
4. Better buses and tracking
The trolley system did get a few new buses, which are nice. But you still see the older buses, with seats that are broken, holes in the seats and handles, and sometimes even having the wheelchair ramp not working. The bus drivers do the best job they can with the sometimes bad equipment. It should be better, especially with over 120,000 people riding at some point. The trolley system could also use a better website.
In the screenshot above, you see the Gamecock Express system map, with icons telling you where the buses are at. Not only you could pull this up on a smartphone, it would prevent people from standing in the weather, just to wait for the bus. They could pull up the GPS map and know when the bus is coming. It would make things much easier!
There, I hope the East Alabama Regional Planning Commission will read this post, and think of some new ways to make the trolley system better here in Anniston. No doubt about it, the reason why most people are riding the trolley system, is mostly because the economy is in the toilet here!