Athens Transit has record breaking October ridership

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The slew of changes that Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP) made to Athens Public Transit in August has had such good results that Athens City Council just renewed their administration of the system.

The changes included expanded routes, extended hours, reduced fair, new bus wraps and changing the main bus stop to Mulberry Street outside of Baker University Center.

"We were very satisfied with the service and the level of enthusiasm of the director," said Michele Papai, Athens City Council woman and council transportation committee chair.

Michael Lachman, transportation services manager for Athens Public Transit, said all recent ridership comparisons to last year's have been positive.

Their newly released numbers show 47,634 rode the system in October 2013, up twelve percent from October 2012. In a September comparison, the increase was seven percent and for August it is five percent.

These numbers include both city transit and riders from the Summit at Coates Run apartment complex, who Athens Transit provides bussing for.

While Homecoming, Halloween, and a week and a half special of free bus fare event called “Free for All” helped boost October ridership, Lachman does not think it’s an isolated situation.

"I think it was a spike, but I don't think it's going to be part of an overall pattern of growth and we're really excited about that," he said.

Lachman said website traffic is up by ten percent since their “Free for All” event ended on October 24. He said that stat gives him a positive outlook for ridership comparisons of this month with last year.

"Five percent for November would not be out of line,” he said. “Maybe even more than that."

Athens Public Transit has more plans in hopes of keeping the numbers rising. Future plans include addition of bus shelters in Athens and a bus pull off on Richland Avenue.

They also plan to release a new bus in February that's friendlier to handicap accessible riders. They plan to move handicap seating from the back to the front.

 "I think they're going to be beneficial to the people of Athens because right now for a bus system that does as many rides as we do there's not very much in the way of what I describe as transit amenities, things that make it more comfortable for people to use the bus," Lachman explained.

Papai hopes that residents will continue to look to public transportation for the sake of community.

"If there are less cars on the road and people are utilizing public transportation that can be a real help to your community,” she said. “We are an educational community and we need to continue to discuss ways of sustainability and the importance of using public transportation."

Lachman believes that the role of Athens Public Transit is continually increasing in importance.

He said with the city's parking reaching its limits, people are becoming more environmentally conscious.

He added that they are staying ahead of any needs they foresee.