VALPARAISO | After more than three years, the V-Line is really starting to catch on, and the ChicaGo Dash continues to show ridership gains.
Perhaps helped by $3-a-gallon gasoline prices, both Valparaiso bus services set ridership records in January.
The V-Line intracity bus had 8,136 riders for the month, topping 8,000 for the first time and beating its previous high in October by about 650.
The Yellow Route led the way with 2,927 riders, while the Green Route had 2,410, the Brown Route 2,290, the Orange Route 359 and the Red Route 150.
The Yellow and Green routes have surpassed the Brown, which serves Valparaiso University and used to top the ridership roster. The Orange Route is the weekend shuttle to the South Shore's Dune Park station, and the Red is the weekend city service.
The Dash's 3,510 riders was 250 more than it previous best and its daily average of 83.6 riders was six more than the standard set in November.
"People are figuring out it's a good, reliable service," Assistant City Planner and Transit Director Tyler Kent said of the V-Line. "It's easy to get around, and people use it to go to work, school, shopping or the doctor."
Kent gave credit to Ride Right, which has operated the system for the city since September under a three-year contract. He said the company provides great oversight, has good employees and drivers, and gives employees continued training that is showing up in huge ridership gains.
"Some of it is marketing, and we will continue that on Facebook and Twitter," Kent said. "The city's new website will have a transit portion that will be more user-friendly. We are looking at improvements to the routes, and the new bus stop signs will be going up soon. Public works has been waiting for the weather to break."
Kent said he will be ordering six to 10 more bus shelters, depending on the price, for placement around the city.
The city also is installing bike lockers in several downtown parking lots for bicyclists who want to pedal downtown and take either bus system to their desired location.
The Dash's three weekday express routes to Chicago's Loop had a total of 100 riders twice during January after hitting that milestone only once previously in its more than two years of operation.
He said people have asked when a fourth bus might be added, but Kent said that won't happen until the current three buses are filled.
Each has about 60 seats, so they are almost halfway to that goal. The buses are equipped with Wi-Fi Internet connections, satellite TV and other amenities.