TAGS Looks to the Future

TAGS Looks to the Future

At its annual meeting, advocacy group considers Bus Rapid Transit and a new Web site.

As density and development grow, officials with Springfield's bus advocacy group are making sure they stay ahead of the game.

The Transportation Association of Greater Springfield (TAGS) conducted its annual meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 3, which included an update on the year's progress, election of officers, and charting of the year ahead.

"This past year was a transition in TAGS," said Board President Jack Mutarelli. "What TAGS has proven is we've gone into areas where there wasn't a proven need."

The major change affecting TAGS over the past year was the Sept. 26, 2004 implementation of the South County Bus Service Plan, which overhauled bus routes and added more options for riders in greater Springfield.

Also at its annual meeting, TAGS heard a presentation on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Sam Zimmerman, a transportation planner with DMJM-Harris.

"TAGS is an advocacy group. That's what our mission is — to educate our constituents about the benefits of using mass and public transportation," said Nancy-jo Manney, vice president of the TAGS board. "We're always looking for new and innovative ways of public transportation."

Zimmerman highlighted several cities worldwide where BRT has been a successful addition to the transportation landscape, increasing ridership without adding gridlock to roads.

"Today, BRT is a lot like light rail was 20 years ago," he said. "A lot of people think it's a great idea, and virtually no one knows what it is."

BRT is like typical bus service, but relies on dedicated lanes to increase speed of service. Other components include a high-profile image and logo, and snazzy buses and bus stops.

"Don't think about mud puddles and a sign that says 'bus,'" said Zimmerman, who played a video clip advertising a new BRT service to open in York, Ontario, Canada later this year.

Manney said the idea of bringing a BRT expert in was not to convince its members that BRT was the wave of the future, but rather to offer food for thought when considering options for increased bus service in Springfield.

"I think it's definitely something that every advocacy group for transportation should consider, whether it's right for an area or not," said Manney.

Higher on the priority list for TAGS is increasing membership and visibility. To that end, Manney said a Web site, www.tagsva.com, will be launched in mid-to-late September, with route information, as well as articles about trends in mass transit.

"That's step number one in being able to reach out to the community," said Manney.