VALPARAISO | The V-Line buses that critics once said were filled with invisible riders now carry so many people the city is extending hours and adding routes to try to accommodate them.
The city's Board of Public Works and Safety on Friday approved the request by city Planning Director Tyler Kent to add the Purple Route to the five existing V-Line routes. It will start Dec. 2 and run from 8:15 to 10:15 p.m. to supplement the Yellow and Green routes, which run from about 6:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
In addition, the Brown Route, originally meant to serve the Valparaiso University students and which runs from 2 to 10 p.m., will start at noon on those days.
"This will help people get home from work or the VU students get back to their apartments," Kent said. "We want to see what the ridership would be if we did longer hours."
The information will be given to RLS and Associates, which is doing an extensive study of the V-Line to see what improvements are needed. The extended hours and new route will be run for 120 days at a cost of about $3,000 a month, Kent said.
"We've had a 39 percent increase in ridership from January through October, and the buses are full and we've had to run more buses out for rescues because the regular buses were full. By extending the hours on the Brown Route we hope we will not have to run as many rescues to keep up with the demand."
Ridership has averaged more than 12,000 a month since August with a high of 13,482 in September. Ridership in October totaled 12,680 with 3,767 on the Yellow Route, 4,933 on the Green Route, 2,785 on the Brown Route, 746 on the Orange Route, 356 on the Red Route and 93 rescues for delayed or full buses.
Kent attributed the continued surge in ridership to "the consistency of the service and the hours and the residents being used to it and knowing it is reliable. Also, there are more VU students on campus, and they are using it more."
The ChicaGo Dash express commuter bus service to the Loop also continued to show high use with a record 5,505 riders in October for an average of 120 a day each way on the four weekday routes. The average was down slightly from September because of more days of service for the month.
"We might do a survey to see what the Dash jump is about," Kent said. "It may be the job market is picking up in Chicago. We hear a lot of good comments on the service that it is reliable and cost effective. Also, there's just a big push nationally for public transportation rather than everyone having a single vehicle everywhere they go."