Posted: November 2015

November 24, 2015

Engineering for Transit Route Decisions: Part 1

Image of transit riders as they travel along a transit route

Whether it’s planes, trains, or automobiles (or by bike, foot or ferry), everyone’s experienced delight and disdain for any mode of transportation. From a family bike ride after dinner to a crowded train during the morning commute, getting from A to B depends on crucial factors outside of most people’s control, but not outside their curiosity. Yet transit planners are intimately aware of both the challenges and rewards of properly addressing a route’s needs. Considerations are made to address the objective and logistical decisions of a transit route to the very human needs of a vibrant and growing community.

What I often find is difficult for people to understand are the vast amount of complex decision points, because each technical or local factor builds upon the next, leading the transit planners at Davis & Floyd to negotiate an array of logistics that lead to the best solutions. This series will provide an overview of some of the planning methodologies we use when faced with planning new bus routes or addressing issues on existing routes.

To begin with, we identify ridership factors that influence how productive a route can be. Dense communities offer the best opportunities for efficiently ridden routes. And that is not only where the route begins, but also where it goes and where it terminates – is the entire route equally effective for a full bus? A common measure for a productive route is passengers per hour; however, understanding ridership is more than just counting passengers. We have to consider who is riding the bus and where they need to go. Are they transit-dependent? Riders that have no other option to reach jobs, school, shopping, medical, and other trips can include low-income families or those with no access to a vehicle, persons with a disability, senior citizens and those without a driver’s license. These riders often make up the core of ridership on any transit system and are most impacted by the fare and reliability of the service. Census data and GIS applications help to identify where these riders are located.

On the other hand, choice riders are customers that could have driven but chose to ride transit instead. These riders make up the bulk of Express and Commuter bus routes that typically serve park-and-rides in suburban areas and travel to job centers in the urban core. Comfort and convenience are critical to attract choice riders. Surveys of employees along a corridor help us locate these riders. We also see routes that target other groups of riders, like the free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) Trolley routes in Charleston that carry visitors to hotels and tourist attractions along the routes. Additionally, colleges often operate transit routes to move students through campus or to off-campus housing, parking, and satellite campuses. Thus, understanding the intended riders and where they want to travel is important in planning a route.

Once a big-picture, plausible, effective route based on ridership is identified, more details come into play, like route alignment – an intersection of design, timing and jurisdiction. Look for information on that in Part 2.

About the Author — Sharon Hollis, AICP, is a Senior Transportation Planner with Davis & Floyd who is responsible for project management and planning support for a range of local and regional transit planning studies in rural, suburban and urban settings throughout the country.

November 20, 2015

Ron Sweatman Joins Davis & Floyd as Staff Civil Engineer

Image of Ron Sweatman, staff civil engineer at Davis & Floyd

Davis & Floyd welcomes Ron Sweatman to the Columbia office as staff civil engineer.

Ronald Sweatman has joined Davis & Floyd as staff civil engineer in the company’s Columbia office. Sweatman will assist project teams with preliminary design, permitting and right-of-way plans.

Sweatman earned his bachelor degree in civil and environmental engineering in 2015 from The Citadel. His career in engineering began with an internship at SCE&G in Cayce. In that role, he gained invaluable experience in design and project management best practices.

What was it in Davis & Floyd’s history and culture that drew you to the company?

I’ve had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with many Davis & Floyd employees over the past few years. Each individual carried themselves in a very professional manner and represented the Davis & Floyd brand very well. This firm has always been known for its excellent engineering services and great relationships with clients statewide. I feel Davis & Floyd is an environment in which I can contribute to the firm’s future success while also serving the needs of our clients.

What current Davis & Floyd project(s) are you most excited to dig into and why?

My focus will be civil infrastructure. I am willing and ready to assist anyone in the firm. From transportation, structural or water resources, I look forward to contributing to any project that will help bring sound engineering solutions to our clients while also improving our state’s infrastructure needs.

Davis & Floyd is an engineering, consulting and design firm that combines expert planning with hands-on execution in public and private projects across South Carolina. With five offices in South Carolina, the company’s work encompasses surveying, planning, landscape architecture and program management along with environmental, buildings, transportation and water/wastewater engineering.

November 4, 2015

Progress Updates in Florence County

In August 2013, Florence County Council unanimously approved the Capital Project Sales Tax II; a renewal of the County’s existing 1-cent local option sales tax. The tax would provide funding for over 450 projects that improve infrastructure, promote public safety, and facilitate economic development. The Davis & Floyd team was awarded the Program Management Services contract and is responsible for overseeing the Florence County penny sales tax program.

Included in the Capital Project list are ball fields and a fire station in the Johnsonville Industrial Park. During last night’s Johnsonville City Council meeting, Davis & Floyd’s Mike Meetze presented an update on the projects to council members. Mike Meetze serves as the program manager for the Capital Sales Tax II program.  Despite the recent record rains in the area (35 inches total since project start), Mike was pleased to report the land has been cleared for the five new ball fields and new fire station.

Mike joined Davis & Floyd in 2006 following a 20-year career at the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT). His experience at the Department as a program manager, resident maintenance engineer, utilities engineer, and expert witness gives him the keen insight necessary to anticipate issues early and maintain project schedules. At Davis & Floyd, he serves as a senior engineer for a variety of projects. Mike’s knowledge of local and state agency processes and stakeholders is an asset to any project team.