Soaring gas prices send Dash ridership soaring, too

2011-01-17T00:00:00Z Soaring gas prices send Dash ridership soaring, tooBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The return of $3-a-gallon gasoline and winter weather are believed to be factors in helping the ChicaGo Dash top 100 riders in one day for the first time since its inception.

Mayor Jon Costas announced at last week's council meeting the Dash had 102 riders Monday, a figure confirmed later in the week by Assistant Planner Tyler Kent, who also is the city's transit director.

Costas said the goal in starting the express commuter service to Chicago's Loop was to have 100 riders a day within three years, but it achieved that in a little over two.

Kent said he talked to one person who moved to Valparaiso from Chicago because of the availability of the Dash.

"Individuals are finding out about the service," Kent said and added the highest ridership is Monday through Wednesday. It drops off at the end of the week because some riders, such as nurses, have flexible work schedules that allow them to work four 10-hour shifts.

The availability of wi-fi on the buses also is a selling point.

"Some employers allow their employees to leave early if they use the wi-fi on the bus to work on the way home," he said.

The high numbers in January follow a month that saw a decrease in average daily ridership from 77.6 in November to 63.8 in December. Kent attributed the decrease to many businesses being closed for the holidays or people being on vacations.

Kent said Dash riders can take advantage of the Wage Works or the Regional Transit Authority's Fare Checks programs, which deduct the cost of the bus passes from employees' paychecks automatically, and the passes are delivered two weeks in advance.

"It makes it that much more convenient for riders to travel in and out of Chicago," Kent said. "They can just show the pass and go. The parking and the coffee (at Valparaiso's Village Station) are free."

The holidays had an impact on the V-Line intracity bus line, too, because Valparaiso University was closed. Despite that, the V-Line still had 6,770 riders in December.

The Yellow Route had 2,621 riders, the Green Route had 2,332, the Brown Route 1,483, the Orange Route shuttle had 186 and the Red Route weekend service had its best showing yet with 148.

The Brown and Orange routes serve primarily VU students.

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