NRoutes buses to begin runs on Saturdays

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 25, 2008

The city’s nine NRoute bus routes will run on Saturdays starting Oct. 15, the NRoute Transportation Commission decided at a meeting Wednesday.

The buses currently operate weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., except holidays, but public interest and ridership has been increasing. Saturday hours will be 9 until 5.

“We have surpassed our five-year goal for ridership in less than 2 1/2 years,” said Evelyn Bumpers, director of the service initiated with federal grants for the purchase of the system’s vans. “Every month we’re seeing increases.” 

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With less than a week left in the fiscal year, 32,868 passengers have used NRoute buses through Sept. 24, up from 26,221 during the system’s first fiscal year, 2006-07.

Bumpers said an average of 150 to 175 riders are using the public transportation system each day. Collections from passenger fares — which range from 50 cents to $1.50 depending on age — and the $30 monthly bus passes were $31,929 through Wednesday, up from $26,050 last fiscal year.  The fares cover about 10 percent of actual costs, with the remainder subsidized by city and county allocations, grants and donations from private sponsors.

A total of 175 riders per day on nine routes calculates to 1.6 passengers per operational hour.

Bumpers said adding Sundays to the schedule is also being considered, but it would not happen in the immediate future. 

The Saturday runs will require the hiring of three additional part-time employees, said Bumpers, and candidates are currently being sought. The new hires would bring the total number of NRoute employees to 10, with six fulltime and four parttime. NRoute increased its bus fleet to nine from six in May, and expanded its structure from seven routes to nine in May 2007.

Operated as a department of the City of Vicksburg at its outset in June 2006, NRoute became an independent utility in February 2007 and formed the transportation commission in August.

Mayor Laurence Leyens has been critical of the commission, saying it was not keeping its pledges to raise money and promote the service. The commission is also working to sell advertising on benches and inside the buses, but must first get approval from the Vicksburg Zoning Board and the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Bumpers said the issue will first go before the zoning board in October. 

Attending Wednesday’s meeting were Bumpers, and Transportation Commissioners Gertrude Young, Malissa Winfield, Mark Buys and Diane Gawronski.

Also Wednesday, the commission:

• Amended the employee policy to eliminate Confederate Memorial Day from the list of paid holidays, as well as to eliminate a policy allowing for one personal day of paid leave per month. The amendments were made to conform to current City of Vicksburg employee policies.

• Approved executing a continuation clause with Parker Tax Service for service on a month-by-month basis with no increase in cost. A 12-month contract with Parker Tax Service will expire on Sept. 30, which the transportation commission paid $15,500 annually or $1,295 per month for services.

The NRoute Transportation Commission will meet again on Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. at 2501 Halls Ferry Road.