VALPARAISO | It was a good year for the V-Line in 2008.
The city's bus line, which had a total of 380 riders the first week of operation in October 2007, finished 2008 with ridership easily topping the goal of 5,000 a month set by operator McDonald Transit Associates for the first year.
After reaching new passenger highs of more than 7,000 in October, ridership dropped slightly in November and December with the holiday vacations of Valparaiso University students, who are the biggest users of the system.
Ridership on the Brown Route, which serves the VU campus, dropped from more than 2,500 in October to 1,941 in November because of the Thanksgiving vacation and to 1,858 in December with the two-week Christmas break. Ridership on the city's other two routes, which has been as high as 2,000, also dropped slightly.
The Yellow Route had 1,745 riders in November and 1,615 in December, while the Green Route had 1,567 and 1,727, respectively. The Orange Route shuttle that operates Friday through Sunday between VU and the South Shore's Dune Park commuter rail station had a good November with 569 riders but only 189 in December.
Totals for the two months were 5,822 in November and 5,389 in December. For the year, a total of 53,126 riders used the buses with the Yellow Route carrying the most at 17,338 followed closely by the Green Route with 17,210. The Brown Route, which shuts down in mid-May through Labor Day, had 15,172 riders, and the Orange Route finished with 3,406.
Assistant City Planner Tyler Kent, who also serves as the city's transit director, said he was satisfied with the results of the first full year of service.
"Hopefully, people are getting used to the service, and we are providing transportation to key places people need to go," Kent said. "Companies are calling to see if we can provide transportation for their employees, and we're seeing a lot more people buying the monthly passes now."
The $30 monthly pass allows people to ride as often as they want. Kent said he is working with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, through which the system's federal funding is funneled, to get bus shelters. The shelters will be installed in the spring, and he is looking for locations. Sites already chosen are VU and Porter-Starke Services.
To increase revenue, the buses will have advertising on the exterior in the near future. The city also is still in negotiations with the university about how much it will pay to subsidize the Brown Route. The previous contract expired in October, but the city continues to provide the service.
"The holidays slowed down the talks with VU," Kent said. "The new president wants to know what's going on. (Former VU President Alan) Harre had the student Senate handle it."
Kent said the city will continue to work with people about possible extensions of service in the hope the ridership will continue to grow in 2009 as it did in 2008.