VALPARAISO | A drop in ridership on the city's V-Line bus system is being blamed on a change in the Brown Route serving Valparaiso University students.
V-Line General Manager Ryan Landers said the service was reduced to one bus an hour, and, although it goes to a lot of places, students don't want to be on the bus for an hour. The route did have a bus leaving the university every 20 minutes before the change. Also, the Red Route, which runs every two hours on weekends, hasn't attracted a lot of riders.
Landers said the Brown Route, which was averaging 2,400 to 2,500 passengers a month at the beginning of the year, is now down to about half that. The route accounted for 35 percent of the monthly ridership at its peak and is now down to only about 20 percent. The weekend Orange Route shuttle to the South Shore's Dune Park station also is down.
"It depends on what the university wants to do," Landers said of efforts to bolster Brown Route business. "If they want to increase the funding for another bus, we can get more riders. As we get fewer riders, there is less justification for VU to fund it. People need to ride the bus."
October's total ridership was 5,885 with the Yellow and Green Routes holding fairly steady at about 2,000 a month each but dipping by about 100 in November when total ridership was 5,030. The Brown Route was down to 1,372 in October and dipped to 857 in November as students were absent for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Orange Route had 350 riders in October and only 309 in November. Ridership on the Red Route was 44 in October and 56 in November.
"To put an extra bus on the (Brown) line would take more money, and right now that's not happening," Landers said.
As to what the drop in ridership means for the future of the service, Landers said, "Too many people need the bus service in this town, so I hesitate to say definitely (that it will continue), but 99 percent of those who use it really need it. Those who don't use it should try it. Hopefully, when we get back from the holidays, we can figure out what to do to improve the service."
City Transportation Director Tyler Kent said he hopes to keep the Red Route operating at least six months to try to build ridership. In the meantime, bus shelters are going up at two locations, in front of Town & Country Market and at the Spring Valley homeless shelter, in the next week or so.
Kent said he's looking at advertising possibilities to promote both the V-Line and the ChicaGo Dash express commuter bus service to the Loop. Average daily ridership on the three weekday Dash buses is just under 60 each way, he said.