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Net Trans Director plans for Blue Route changes in 2014

A Net Trans bus route which currently links Jonesborough to Johnson City will undergo some changes in the spring according to Candace Gump, the new deputy director of the Northeast Tennessee Rural Public Transit program.
Gump, who says she is looking into ways to use funds more efficiently, said the Blue Route, which serves the Jonesborough Visitors Center, downtown Jonesborough, Bethel Housing, Jonesborough Senior Center and Wetlands Water Park, Ingles, George Jaynes Justice Center, White’s Shopping Center and the Food City Shopping Center in Jonesborough and Wal-Mart, Johnson City Transit and Greyhound Bus in Johnson City, will be turned into a connect service, same-day dial service later this year. The change will give individuals wanting to ride on the Blue Route the opportunity to call and say they would like to be picked up in 30 minutes and dropped off at Food City, for example.
“It will give better service to the rider because right now if you get on the fixed route, you have to follow loops at set sites,” Gump said.
With the connect service, she said individuals will not have to make the entire loop through Jonesborough.
“Our purple route will still provide service from Jonesborough into Johnson City Transit,” she said.
In October of last year, about 15 riders were using the Jonesborough route in a given day. Gump said the ridership is slightly higher during the summertime and as the weather gets colder, the ridership typically declines.
“I’m looking at all of our routes,” she said. “We want to make sure we are servicing the area as well as we should be. We want to make everything friendly for the customer.”
Gump said they want to provide the atmosphere that brings customers back for future rides.
“In order to do that, we are looking at ways to make shorter times and make customer service more friendly,” she said.
Since NET Trans operates as a share ride program, it enables them to give more people the opportunity to use the service.
“So, when someone gets onto the vehicle, they may pick up someone else before they all get dropped off,” Gump explained. She said the service groups the bus stops in clusters – a way to use the least amount of miles while getting everyone to where they need to go.
The Purple Route starts in Greeneville and comes up through Limestone into the George Jaynes Justice Center area and then travels to Johnson City.
Gump said this route is mostly used by someone who lives in Jonesborough and wants to go into Johnson City.
NET Trans provides services for Washington, Sullivan, Carter, Greene, Johnson, Hawkins and Unicoi counties. Although the fleet is currently comprised of 95 vehicles, about 80 of those vehicles are used daily.
Gump said the fleet, which is mostly wheelchair lift equipped, is made up of different sizes ranging from small sedans to buses.
NET Trans makes about 800 demand response trips on a daily basis. Those trips are comprised of an individual calling the call center, 461-8233, and setting up a specific location to be picked up and dropped off.
“It’s door-to-door service,” Gump said.
When an individual calls the call center, staff will book the trip and then a scheduler and two dispatchers will assign the trip to a vehicle using NET Trans route map software. Gump said the software has GPS tracking and automatic vehicle locaters based on GEO codes of the address.
“We can cluster that together with other trips in close proximity to make sure we are sending the most proficient vehicle,” she said.
In her new position at NET Trans, Gump will oversee operations as far as the budget goes, analyze routes to make sure funds are being used efficiently, oversee the maintenance facility in Elizabethton, as well as the call center at their Johnson City office.
So far, she said she is letting it all soak in as she gathers data. “It’s been challenging in a good way,” Gump said of her new position. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”