The number of people riding local buses in October outdid last year’s record by 5 percent, with 122,555 riders compared to 115,746 riders in October 2012. The increase contributes to six years of continuous ridership growth for Blue Water Area Transit.
Local bus ridership has been climbing at a record-breaking pace since a 27-year record was toppled in March 2008.
“When more people use public transportation, everybody benefits,” explains Jim Wilson, BWAT general manager. “It’s good for the environment, because there are fewer cars on the road. Our buses run on clean-burning compressed natural gas, which further reduces emissions.”
Initially, BWAT’s increases were in the midst of declining national ridership. Today, the number of people using transit is increasing at a steady rate throughout most of the country.
“As the local economy continues to recover, public transportation ridership continues to increase,” observes Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.
BWAT officials believe there are several reasons for their growth. They credit a wide range of improvements supported by federal grants that have made bus service more accessible, convenient, and comfortable for area riders. These include extended hours, as well as new buses, routes, and services. Low bus fares (75 cents for adults) and easy-to-use bicycle racks are also factors.
In an effort to meet commuter needs, BWAT has expanded service hours to better match work schedules. Weekday evening service (Mondays thru Thursdays) runs until 11:00 p.m., late night weekend service (Fridays and Saturdays) runs until 3:00 a.m., and weekday morning service starts as early as 5:15 a.m. on demand.
BWAT also operates a commuter route to Macomb County, which includes express service along I-94 and local service with stops in Marysville, St. Clair, Algonac, Clay Township, Pearl Beach, Ira Township, Anchorville, and New Baltimore.
“Our ability to continually grow is a real tribute to the leadership and employees at Blue Water Area Transit,” applauds Jim Fisher, Blue Water Area Transit Commission Board chair. “The agency has strategically competed for many federal grants that have made a big difference in how well we are able to serve the community.”
Blue Water Area Transit continues a proud tradition of innovation in public transit that has served Port Huron for more than a century. The agency started producing its own compressed natural gas in 1996 and now ranks as Michigan’s largest producer of the alternative fuel. It also runs the state’s largest fleet of alternative fuel buses.