NRoute Saturday ridership low, but expected to rise
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Ridership on NRoute mini-buses has been slow on Saturdays since the additional day of service was introduced in mid-October, but Evelyn Bumpers, director of the heavily subsidized service, said she expects the numbers to increase in the coming year.
About 650 riders were recorded during the first two months of Saturday service, Bumpers said. That’s about 80 people per Saturday, compared with a daily ridership average of about 150 over the past 12 months.
“It will grow,” said Bumpers following an NRoute Transportation Commission meeting on Monday. “It’s similar to when we first started the system. It was slow to take off, but as people have become familiar with the schedule the numbers have grown steadily.”
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December ridership was the highest recorded since the public transit was launched in June 2005. Bumpers said 4,872 boardings were recorded through Monday, compared to 2,442 riders a year previous, and Bumpers said the monthly total should top 5,000 for the first time. She attributed the rise in ridership to Saturday runs, as well as more daily, weekly and monthly pass sales.
“I’ve always said if we could get 5,000 per month we would be very successful,” Bumpers told the transportation commission.
Average monthly ridership over the past 12 months is at 2,948. In its first full month of operation in July 2006, 1,478 people traveled on NRoute mini-buses. Ridership first eclipsed 2,000 in March 2007, and began consistently boarding 3,000 riders per month beginning in June.
NRoute operates nine mini-buses on nine routes throughout Vicksburg. Operating hours on Saturday are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while buses run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. There is no service on holidays, including New Year’s Day. The original fleet of six mini-buses was increased in May, while the number of routes grew from seven in May 2007.
A federal grant of $1 million was used to start the transportation system, and it was initially aided by $320,000 in tax-deductible pledges from local businesses and sponsors. However, many businesses have since reduced annual donations to NRoute or ceased contributing altogether. NRoute operating funds come largely from the City of Vicksburg — with the transportation commission requesting $212,000 in operation funds this year after receiving about $250,000 last fiscal year — as well as from Mississippi Department of Transportation grants and reimbursements.
Between 10 percent and 15 percent of total operation funds are raised through fares. Collected fares rose in December to $3,963 from $2,512 a year previous. The service has never been expected to break even, but every dollar raised through fares, donations and advertising would offset direct allocations.
“To bring in $1,500 more this month over last year, that’s an awful strong increase to me,” said commissioner member John Wayne Jabour. “I’m very pleased.”
The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved this month a measure to allow the transportation commission to sell advertising on NRoute buses, benches and shelters. Bumpers said she is readying a request for proposals to advertising agencies to sell the advertising, and they will be ready for distribution to interested advertising agencies next week.
Also on Monday, the commission denied a proposal from The New Times to advertise with the publication on a monthly basis at a rate of $750. In executive session, the commission discussed personnel evaluations and raises. Attending the meeting were Bumpers, commissioners Jabour, Gertrude Young, Mark Buys and Diane Gawronski.
Contact Steve Sanoski at firstname.lastname@example.org.