New buses and a new attitude toward riding those buses may have a lot to do with increasing ridership at the Western Reserve Transit Authority. While public transportation is the preferred method of getting around in many cities, in the Mahoning Valley, most of those who ride the bus have done so only out of necessity. But with 2001's ridership up compared to last year's, it's obvious that increasing numbers of people are learning just how economical and convenient taking the bus can be.
Cheaper than school buses: Now that a number of city schools have been closed, the Youngstown school board has found that it is cheaper to transport students on WRTA buses than on school buses.
High school students, particularly, should find it easier to participate in after-school activities if they have a way to get home. When kids live close to their schools, they can always walk home after a practice or meeting. But those who live at a distance and have working parents, a ride home is essential.
Senior citizens are also riding buses more often. Although WRTA Executive Director James J. Ferraro sees last month's milder weather encouraging older residents to get out more, the convenience and comfort of the new buses may encourage ridership into the winter.
For those who are used to driving themselves, it's not always easy to fall into the rhythm of following a schedule. But once folks know when to be at their stop, they develop a bus-riding habit.
This has certainly become true for adult riders who work at night. As part of the welfare-to-work program, they must be on the job every day -- or night, if they're on a late shift. Without their own vehicles, they could not hold down those jobs without the bus.
While no one should imagine that most people in this area will park their cars and hop aboard buses instead, even a modest increase in passengers benefits the business and environmental health of the region. Fewer cars on the road means less air pollution. Fuller buses means more people out and about, and more likely to be earning money or spending it. And more income for the WRTA makes it possible to improve service and gain a surer financial footing.