Framework for Valley Metro expansion underway

Valley Metro bus number 91 in route. – Photo by S. Nowlin

by Shawn Nowlin

Valley Metro, a private, non-profit public service organization, currently operates from 5:45 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Established in 1975, the bus system provides an alternative transportation option to link riders to hundreds of locations throughout Roanoke, Salem and Vinton.

Most riders use Valley Metro to commute to and from work, school, link to retail stores or run errands. Fred Donaher likes to take the bus because it is “a green alternative to driving everywhere whenever possible.”

“If a bus is already going the same place I need to be, it doesn’t make sense to create more traffic and add to pollution,” Donaher said. “Valley Metro is a vital and viable asset to our community. We should fully embrace it because it benefits us in so many ways.”

One of the first things Brittany White did when she moved to Roanoke was acclimated herself to the Valley Metro bus system. The Houston, Texas, native lives near the Melrose Library, and regularly takes the bus to work.

“Even though I have a vehicle, I still like taking the bus,” White said. “Not only does it help me save gas money, but it also gives me an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.”

As General Manager of Valley Metro, Kevin Price is responsible for managing the operation of the transit system. In an email, Price explained what riders should expect in the foreseeable future.

“The challenge over the past decade has been on maintaining the level of service while dealing with inflationary cost increases,” he said. “Valley Metro has plans to upgrade its technology in 2018 by launching a real-time bus information app, which will allow passengers to view live bus service information such as route vehicle location and real-time arrival schedules.”

Over the last ten years, the Smart Way Bus was created to connect area residents between New River Valley and Roanoke. Valley Metro also provides a connection to Amtrak from Blacksburg via the normal Smart Way service. Price says the company is currently in the process of completing an operations analysis.

Steve White, a Valley Metro rider for over two decades, would prefer the bus to run on Sundays. “It would provide a great service for so many people, but at the same time I know accomplishing something like that is easier said than done,” he said.

People usually do what is most convenient to them which is why James Clark believes there will always be a demand for the Valley Metro.

“No company is perfect, but I think $1.75 as a standard bus fee is more than fair,” Clark said. “Quite often, we take things for granted as consumers. Countless people all over the country would love to have access to public transportation.”

For information on routes and schedules, visit www.valleymetro.com.