Microtransit system, civic center plans get closer look at city retreat

Published 12:10 am Sunday, January 29, 2023

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council and city staff heard from Transit Director Rodney Harrison and representatives of AECOM, an infrastructure consulting firm, about the best course of action for a microtransit system proposed for the area.

The system would be a point to point rideshare service like Uber and it would be run by the city. A study concluded Salisbury would need three to six vehicles to operate, including a spare vehicle in case of mechanical failures. The staff was presented with four scenarios to consider during Thursday’s City Council retreat, with the recommendation being that Salisbury replaces all fixed routes with a microtransit option.

It would make it easier for riders because it would be citywide and have fewer boundaries. Those who drive for Salisbury now will be part of the new system and the city already has “light transit vehicles” that would be ideal to use since they have more capacity than standard minivan. An app would let people schedule a ride.

The current timeline is roughly six to seven months to implement. Annual operating cost estimates for the chosen scenario would be just over  $1 million. If Salisbury goes with the citywide system, it will lose up to $200,000 in State Maintenance Assistance Program funds. It could still receive that funding for up to two years, since an evaluation would be completed while the details are being ironed out.

“It’s becoming one of those multi-year goals,” City Manager Jim Greene said “It could continue. I’m hearing council supporting microtransit. That goal could stay, but we could refine it to clarify funding with the state.”

Also during the retreat, plans for a civic center that includes the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center and the Fred M. Evans pool were discussed as a priority subject. All three of these facilities would be moved to the same location, which would make it easier for staff members to manage any problems that surfaced. Salisbury Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves praised the potential of such a “generational facility.”

“You could run after school programs for kids, but during the day the building is being used because you got senior programs going on. There can be senior programs at night as well, but you’re utilizing that facility mostly all during the day and at night,” Aceves said.

Aceves said a new gym could be a part of the center and other amenities like trails, trees, courts and parking would be added. The project would likely cost tens of millions of dollars, but local partnerships would be used to bring in grants and donors if plans go forward for the facility.