VALPARAISO | The V-Line bounced back from a sluggish December, and the ChicaGo Dash had its highest average ridership to date in January.
With Valparaiso looking for a marketing firm to publicize both bus services, the V-Line had a total of 5,525 riders in January led by the Green Route with 1,865. The Yellow Route had 1,789 riders, the Brown Route had 1,563, the Orange Route shuttle had 234 and the Red Route had 37.
The total was up about 1,000 from December when the holidays and the break in classes at Valparaiso University reduced the numbers.
"We expect those number to be lower (in December)," said Assistant City Planner Tyler Kent, who also is city transit director.
Also during January, the Dash's average weekday ridership rose to 59 each way. Kent said the express commuter bus from Valparaiso to Chicago's Loop also had its biggest one-day ridership total of 91 when the VU orchestra used it to go to Chicago to hear the Chicago Symphony.
Requests for proposals were sent to about two dozen marketing firms last week to develop a campaign for promoting both bus services. Kent said the requests were sent mostly to area firms, and they are due back Feb. 24. The city is getting $125,000 in federal funds to pay for the marketing plan.
Kent said the city plans to continue to fund the V-line after the federal startup grant expires in October. Money has been set aside from the city's share of the county economic development income tax to pay for the operating costs not covered by fares. He said the city will continue to do so unless ridership plunges.
In the meantime, he gave the manufacturer of the four new Dash buses approval for the colors for the buses this week and the painting was expected to begin Wednesday. The buses are due to be delivered in April. They will replace the buses now belonging to Free Enterprise System, which will continue to operate the buses for the city. A grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority is helping pay for the new buses.