Study examines effect of adding more hours, different routes at Valley Metro

ROANOKE, Va. – Major changes could be coming to a Valley Metro bus stop near you. The service wants to know how adding longer hours and expanding weekend rides would affect their business and customers.

Any changes will be made after a survey due next month is released. Valley Metro's general manager said the bus routes haven't been examined like this in about 25 years, and bus riders are ready for a change.

Lolita Gill is boarding a Valley Metro bus she takes pretty often, but wishes the trips ran later.

"I just finished school not too long ago, but I can't really get the shifts that are available in my work because of the bus routes," said Gill.

And she may get her wish. Valley Metro is taking a look at the impact -- good and bad -- of adding more hours to bus routes.

"That would help be able to work this job and get the money to actually get a car," said Gill.

A study examining the cost effectiveness and efficiency of Valley Metro's current bus routes is due in June. The study will not only look at longer hours during the week, but also Sunday hours. Valley Metro's general manager hopes it will highlight any routes that need changes to make it easier for riders.

"We've heard their requests and we want to be proactive in how we address them, but we also have to balance that with being responsible to stakeholders and taxpayers -- but we're looking and we're working hard to make sure we can satisfy the need," said Kevin Price, general manager for Valley Metro. 

At bus stops, those requests for longer hours and Sunday hours are easy to find from riders and even from Roanoke's newly elected vice mayor. 

"Adding three more hours at the end of the day would cover all three shifts and be a benefit to business owners who want to make sure their employees are getting to and from work safely and employees who want to be able to work and keep more of their take-home pay," said Joe Cobb, vice mayor-elect for the city of Roanoke. 

"Sometimes if you're working late until after 8 and you don't have a ride, it's much easier if you have to take the buses after, like after 8," said Sydney Winston, a Valley Metro rider.

So, would this affect the cost of riding the bus? Price said that all depends on the results of their study. They'll know if they need to hire more drivers and if it will impact costs.