Fewer people are riding the Springfield City Area Transit bus service one year after the city commission increased prices and changed routes, but local leaders say the service is more efficient.
The SCAT saw more than 249,000 passengers between June of 2015 through May of 2016 — the year-long period before changes were made to routes and pricing.
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About 193,000 riders used SCAT in the same period between June of last year and May 31, according to public records — a nearly 23 percent decrease.
However the service averaged 8.4 passengers per trip, up from about 8.2 at the end of last year, said Glen Massie said, a transportation planner with the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee. The service has surpassed nine riders per trip three times since June 2015, including twice after the changes were made.
Before the changes were made, the buses made 118 runs per day, Massie said. Now SCAT provides 91 runs per day, he said, but still meets the same service demands. The average ridership numbers likely will stay consistent through this year, he said.
“We were able to reduce costs to the system and we’re still able to provide great service,” Massie said. “We’re pleased with the changes and we believe the passengers are, too.”
Springfield city commissioners agreed last year to make changes to the bus service for the first time in 30 years, including increased fares and new routes.
The fares — which hadn’t been changed since 1984 — increased from 75 cents to $1. The new fare structure also eliminated transfers, meaning it costs an additional fare to change routes.
It also updated routes and extended hours for riders. The bus previously operated 11 fixed routes from 6:40 a.m. to 5:40 p.m.
Riders were surprised early in the process because it had been so long since changes were made, Massie said.
Beginning in June of last year, the service began operating seven routes, including some that run through 6:40 p.m.
“We found it difficult to get people home from work that may get off at 5 o’clock,” Massie said. “The reason we did that was to help those folks.”
The system was simplified, he said, including color-coded routes and consolidating some routes to provide better service for people who work on Bechtle Avenue or at PrimeOhio Corporate Park.
“Consistency was really key in this,” Massie said. “We believe passengers are happy with the consistency of the system. Passengers have adapted well. They’re very helpful to people who are riding for the first time.”
The goal of changes was to make the service more efficient, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said.
“That’s exactly what was supposed to happen,” he said.
Copeland hasn’t received complaints about the changes, he said.
SCAT saw more than 261,000 riders in 2014 and about 258,000 passengers in 2015. Last year — with changes in effect for about six months — the service saw 211,000 riders.
This year, the service has seen more than 78,000 passengers through May 31.
Springfield resident Mike Schantz rides the bus every single day, he said. Schantz moved back to the city about six years ago.
“I’ve been with them ever since,” he said.
He typically buys the 10-ride passes to save money, he said. The new routes have helped, although he typically rides the same few routes, he said.
“I ride other routes but I’m still getting used to them,” Schantz said.
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