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'Try Transit Week' called a success

September 22, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The County Commuter's "Try Transit Week" was a success, providing 9,470 rides at no charge, Transportation Director Kevin Cerrone said Wednesday.

During the free ridership week, the service provided 3,500 - or 59 percent - more rides than it did during the same week last year, when rides were not free, Cerrone said.

"I am very, very pleased," he said. "I think we'll get a lot of mileage out of it."

Last Monday through Saturday all County Commuter and Paratransit rides were free. The goal was to attract new riders and thank existing ones.

Last year, ridership for the week was 5,953 and this year it was 9,470, Cerrone said.

The number reflects the number of rides, not necessarily the number of riders, since some may have ridden the bus more than once, he said.

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Ridership has been increasing annually in recent years, from 299,000 in fiscal year 1996 to 346,000 in fiscal year 1999, which ended June 30.

Ridership peaked in 1990 at 538,000 but dropped due to fare hikes and the elimination of some routes, Cerrone said.

The largest jump last week was on Saturday when there was 128 percent more rides than usual, or 1,811, up from 701 last year.

Ridership was up 40 percent Monday, 60 percent Tuesday, 36 percent for Wednesday and 86.5 percent for Friday.

The only day without a large increase was Thursday, the day the remnants of Hurricane Floyd hit the region, Cerrone said. The increase that day was 6 percent, he said.

All vehicles were busier than usual and at one point 17 people were standing in a 30-seat bus going to the Valley Mall because there wasn't enough seating, "which is unheard of here," he said.

He has not yet determined if a specific population, such as students or senior citizens, rode the bus when it was free, he said.

The hope is that the promotion - and other possible future promotions - will result in more people riding the bus, he said.

The Washington County Commissioners will reimburse the Transportation Department for the $3,000 to $4,000 it lost in fare box fees, Cerrone said.

For more information about County Commuter call 791-3047.

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