VALPARAISO | Maybe people like the convenience. Maybe it's the camaraderie with the other passengers. Maybe people just don't want to have to drive the roundabouts.
Whatever the reason, the V-Line business is booming.
The intra-city bus service had 124,195 riders in 2013, a 23.5 percent increase from 2012, when it topped 100,000 for the first time. The daily average on the three routes is 340 riders.
"People are starting to realize it's here to stay," Assistant City Planner Tayler Wegrzyn said. "They see it driving around town every day. It's a slow process converting people to public transit."
Wegrzyn said the city has continued to tweak the service to improve it for riders, adding the bus tracking app in 2013 so riders can tell where the buses are at any given moment. The city also does surveys of riders to find out what they want.
A few months ago, the V-Line added the Purple Route, which runs for two hours after the regular Green and Yellow routes cease service at 8:15 p.m. The Purple Route hits most of the major apartment complexes and supplements the Brown Route, which serves Valparaiso University and runs from noon to 10 p.m.
Wegrzyn said the increase in the VU student population also contributed to the V-Line's growth, which he said was the biggest in the state for a fixed route service. The city hired a consultant to do a route study of the V-Line to see if other changes can be made to improve service and increase ridership.
The Green Route had the most riders for the year with 46,254 followed by the Yellow, 40,551, Brown, 26,764, Orange, 6,201, Red, 3,813, and the Purple, 139. The V-Line also had 473 "rescue" pickups provided when buses were full or delayed.
Ridership growth on the ChicaGo Dash weekday express commuter bus to Chicago's Loop was almost as impressive. Final totals for the four routes showed 55,037 riders for the year, an increase of about 15 percent from 2012.
Average daily ridership on the 53-passenger buses is up to 29 following the addition of the fourth bus in the spring. Wegrzyn said word-of-mouth has been the Dash's best friend as riders tell others about the service resulting in them abandoning their cars for the long commute.
The Dash has outgrown its current location at Campbell Street and Lincolnway, and a study is underway to find a new site for the station in the downtown area.