Friday, November 05, 1999

Butler Co. buses gaining ridership

Routes to jobs popular; expansion planned

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nearly six months after bus service returned to Butler County, transit is making a steady comeback.

        As news spreads that bus service has returned to Hamilton after a hiatus of several years, ridership on Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) buses, called the Blast, has grown to about 1,000 riders per week.

        That's up from the 400-500 riders per week when the service started this summer. And the goal is 1,500 riders by mid-2000.

        “We are meeting our projections,” said Amy Terango, executive director of BCRTA, formed after bus service stopped in Hamilton to find a countywide approach to transportation. “It takes time to build a ridership base. ... But we're really seeing a nice increase.”

        Buses formerly ran only in the city of Hamilton. But since May, the new service recognizes the burgeoning job centers in the southeastern part of the county and the need for shuttling people between Butler and Hamilton counties.

        BCRTA has four fixed routes and demand-response bus service in Hamilton, an employment connector from Hamilton to Fairfield that connects to Tri-County Mall, a reverse commute route from Cincinnati to Fairfield and a Fairfield Link route with a connection to Forest Fair Mall.

        The routes geared toward bussing people to jobs have been among the most most popular so far.

        James Frasher, 24, of Hamilton relies on the bus and job circulator to get home from his work in Springdale.

        “It's a lot easier to get to work this way,” said Mr. Frasher, who started a new job in Springdale and has been taking the bus for about three weeks.

        BCRTA is happy with the ridership so far, but is creating a strategic plan for the future. It's in the middle of a round of public hearings to find out what people want the Blast bus service to provide in 2005, 2010 and 2015.

        The next meetings are scheduled 8-10 a.m. Tuesday at the Southeastern Butler County Chamber of Commerce in West Chester, and 8-10 a.m. Nov. 16 at the Lane Library in Hamilton.

        The biggest suggestion: More service.

        Some people want to see longer hours.

        “It's convenient because it stops right by the house and I can get downtown to pay the utilities,” said Jackie McKinney, 37, of Hamilton.

        She doesn't have a car and used to walk 5 miles to pay her bills or go shopping in downtown Hamilton. “But it does need to run more hours. ... I missed the last bus once while shopping on the west side and had to find a way home.”

        Among the other requests is service to more employers. Potential riders also want to see routes to Miami University's Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses and to the up-and-coming Union Centre Boulevard.

        Oxford and Middletown routes already are in the plans and service will be added there over the next two years.

        For more information about the public hearings, call 785-5246.


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