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New Mexico State IE professor, students aim to improve local transit

An industrial engineering professor from New Mexico State University said a local bus system can have more efficient routes, which he said would boost ridership, according to local media reports.

Professor Hansuk Sohn said the current bus routes were planned five years ago, leaving the system inefficient amidst the expansion of the city of Las Cruces, N.M., as well as Dona Ana County.

Thousands of riders rely daily on the current RoadRUNNER and Aggie Transit networking system to get to their destinations. Since 2008, however, the city estimates the buses have lost 70,000 riders.

Sohn, for example, lives in the East Mesa and said he would like to take the bus to campus daily. Right now, one-way travel time along a route less than 10 miles between his home and campus is more than an hour, he said, whereas driving his own car to campus only takes 20 minutes. That's why he and some students are now working to figure out how Roadrunner transit can run more efficiently. The group has been communicating with city officials, producing and distributing surveys as well as collecting ridership data and drafting possible solutions.

"This project has the promising potential to improve the public transit service in the city of Las Cruces that would benefit every resident," Sohn told KFOX-TV.

Transit administrator Mike Bartholomew said he welcomes the research.

"In terms of transit planning, I've never seen the transit planning approach from an industrial engineering approach," Bartholomew said.

He said most of the solutions are already evident, such as more bus routes and longer hours of operation. He said the challenge is finding additional funding. "The problem with that, the more vehicles, the more drivers, the more cost."

Bartholomew said budget constraints may force the city to consider pulling buses from less-used routes and putting them in other areas, which may upset some residents.

"I think it's just going to have to be a persuasive argument," Bartholomew said.

Sohn didn't disagree. "It's not going to be a very simple decision to make."

The NMSU group is working on ways to increase ridership and minimize total transportation costs. So far in the study they have found that the peak demand use of the Aggie Transit system does not reach the maximum capacity of the smaller buses that are used on routes. Sohn said the transit should use smaller buses, which would save around $30,000 annually.

The group plans to conduct more data gathering. Once it is analyzed they will present the finding and possible solutions to city officials, according to KRWG public radio.

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