Monday, June 26, 2000

'Demand' service boosts bus ridership




By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — In recent weeks, there haven't been many empty seats on buses operated by the Butler County Regional Transity Authority (BCRTA).

        At the beginning of June, the authority began providing on-demand, curb-to-curb service to clients of the Butler County Work Place, formerly the Human Services Department.

        The anticipated 250 trips per day turned out to be a daily average of 450, with ridership jumping as high as 560 on some days.

        During the first week of June, the unexpectedly high ridership caused missed pick-ups and some disgruntled customers.

        “It was rough that first week,” Amy Terango, BCRTA executive director, said.

        Since then, the authority beefed up staffing, adjusted scheduling and improved service, she added, and staff has been working overtime to cover routes and dispatch assignments.

        The authority underestimated the demand from clients of the Butler county Work Place, Andy Baker-Tyree, BCRTA manager of communications, said. People love having what amounts to a taxi service for $4 per round trip.

        On May 1, the authority, which has been operating fixed routes in Hamilton and Fairfield for a year, began offering demand-service for the public.

        That service also exceeded expectations. The authority is limiting the demand-service to 100 per day.

        Shawn Baker, who has no driver's license, depends on the Blast bus service to take him from his west Hamilton home to work at a fiber recycling center in Fairfield. “It picks me up right at my door,” Mr. Baker, 25, said. “It's a great service.”

        Average fixed route ridership is 800 passengers per day.

        With the county growing so fast, BCRTA plans to expand its service in August from 15 hours a day five days a week to 24 hours a day, seven days a weeks.

        That same month, it will be adding a fixed route from Hamilton to Middletown that links with Middletown's bus system.

        The only other public bus service in Butler County is Middletown's.

        The authority's three-year contract with Butler County, Hamilton and Fairfield expires after next year.

        Union Township has contributed money for just this year.

        Next year, Butler County will have to evaluate the transportation needs of its residents and decide whether to expand the Blast bus service, Ms. Terango said.

        “There is more demand than we are able to provide for right now,” she said. “Do we want to invest more in public transit in Butler County? That decision has to come from the citizens.”

       



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