More Bus Route Changes Likely as Ridership Down in Charlottesville

April 8, 2014

Three months after major changes to its bus routes, Charlottesville Area Transit (CAT) is experiencing a decline in ridership.

CAT ridership dropped eight percent in the first three months of 2014 when compared to last year. John Jones, CAT's transit manager, says while CAT anticipated the drop-off, a perfect storm has led to the eight percent decline.

"You've got a downward trend statewide, weather, misunderstandings. Some of them, maybe they did quit riding," said Jones.

According to Jones, one other reason for the decline is the new more efficient routes that no longer require riders to change buses as frequently.

"If you went downtown on route 3, and transferred to route 7, you were counted again as your boarded 7," Jones said. "Now with some added merchant stops on 3, 4 and 6 folks don't need to transfer as much."

Some routes saw an increase in ridership. Route 6 is up 33 percent, thanks to an added stop a supermarket. The most significant impact was on route 9, which saw a 47 percent drop off. Route 9 no longer goes downtown.

"Either we haven't marked it well, or we've latched into an area where there aren't many riders, and that may have to change," said Jones.

That is not the only change under consideration. According to Jones, CAT is still considering what do to do with the former route 24, which offered night service to Pantops.

“Our consultant told us there was no ridership there," said Jones, "We feel that may have been an error with some old data that they used. We may need to put that back on there. We are not really sure right now."

Jones said while there are individual routes that he is concerned about, he isn't worried about the decline in overall ridership. While CAT only saw an eight percent decrease, other systems in the state are experiencing as much as a 21 percent dip.

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