MAHONING VALLEY Increase in bus ridership continues, WRTA reports

More adults are using the bus service at night to get to work.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ridership continues to grow at Western Reserve Transit Authority, where double-digit increases have been the norm recently.
There was a 21 percent increase in ridership last month over October 2000, reported James J. Ferraro, executive director. Much of the increase, he said, came from senior citizens and students. Senior citizen ridership was up 11 percent; student ridership was up 52 percent.
Ferraro announced the increases during the November board meeting Thursday afternoon.
Reasons: He attributes the growth in ridership to:
* Mild weather.
* The Youngstown school board's efforts to reduce costs for transporting students by using WRTA rather than school buses.
* The transit authority's efforts to move disabled riders from the Dial-a-Ride program to traditional route service.
* Adults using the night service to go to and from work.
Weather in October was relatively mild, allowing seniors who stay indoors when the weather is bad to get out, Ferraro said.
Disabled riders who fall into the same category as senior citizens also contributed to the increase, he added. Some of them use public transportation to get to and from work at places such as MCI Worldcomm on U.S. Route 422 in Trumbull County, and InfoCision in Austintown, Ferraro said.
Student ridership is up as the result of school closings that require students to travel farther distances. Operating yellow school buses is far less economical with costs for fuel, maintenance and insurance continuing to increase, Ferraro said. So, the Youngstown school board has been buying more monthly passes for students to use WRTA to get to and from school. Most of the passes are for high school students.
The number of adult riders also is up. Many of them, Ferraro said, ride the bus in the evening -- night service was introduced earlier this year -- to get to or from work. As part of the welfare-to-work program, these riders may not have had anywhere to go before. Now, they must be on the job every day and use the bus to get there.
"We're flirting with 5,000 riders a day," Ferraro boasted. That's a marked improvement over a year ago, he said, but there is still much room for continued growth.
Station: Improvements to WRTA's Federal Street station also were discussed during the meeting. Sidewalk replacement and repair is progressing smoothly, board members said. Beginning Monday, traffic patterns at the station will be changed to allow for sidewalk replacement on the east side of the building.
Twenty-two new buses recently added to the WRTA fleet are all running, and plans are under way to sell the 21 buses they replaced, Ferraro added.
Over the last year, WRTA has replaced its aging fleet -- buses were an average 13 years old and now the average age of the fleet is less than 1 year old, Ferraro said.

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