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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Athens Bus Campaign

Activist Michael Smith recently formed the Athens Bus Campaign to get the Athens-Clarke Commission to lower bus fares, reports the Banner-Herald, but neither Athens Transit nor the Mayor & Commission are being persuaded.

Athens Transit has become too reliant on University of Georgia students and employees whose fares are subsidized while not doing enough to attract other kinds of riders, Smith said.

He argues that many buses are not filled to capacity, so increased ridership could fill the budget gap created by dropping fares to make them more affordable.

"We feel like (lowering fares) could jump-start ridership," Smith said.

But few additional people would hop on a bus for $1.25 as opposed to the current $1.50 adult fare, Athens Transit Director Butch McDuffie said.

"The only way to increase ridership is to make your service more frequent and more available," McDuffie said. The commission has added night and Saturday service in recent years, but in the recession lacks the money to make additional improvements.

I tend to agree with Mr. McDuffie on this. How does Mr. Smith know that lowering fares would increase ridership? Has he conducted any surveys of prospective riders? If not, he should get in touch with UGA's social science departments - their students can help him do this.

An aside: What seems to increase ridership most acutely is a spike in gas prices. Until buses are as convenient to use as private automobiles (i.e. more frequent and available service), many people will only utilize transit when they have to.

Any other thoughts on this?

1 comment:

michael said...

Hi Brent, Thanks for the post on the Bike Athens Blog, I recently added Mike Ely and Amy Johnson to an e-mail thread including several commissioners and Mayor Davison...

To give a short answer to your question about ridership increases, even archaic fare elasticity models predict a 5% increase in ridership with a 25 cent decrease from 1.50 to 1.25...ATS knows this but chose not to emphasis that point for the article, I emphasized it and it did not make the article...

I am sure you will be hearing more soon. Thanks, Michael