VALPARAISO — The first week of Valparaiso's new bus service to the South Shore Line trains went well, with ridership above expectations.
The first week of Transit Connect line has averaged five to seven riders per day since the service began Aug. 1, Transit Manager Don Lorntzen said.
“The first day we had two and then we had something like 12 the next few days,” he said. “I honestly expected a much smaller turnout, which I'm glad to be wrong about. It's getting used, and that's what we're after.”
A quarterly report with more detailed ridership stats will be presented to the Redevelopment Commission in October.
The service takes passengers from the main station at 260 Brown St. to the Dune Park Station near Chesterton.
The buses start running at 8:20 a.m., arriving in time for the westbound train about 2:30 p.m., when the last bus from the station back to Valparaiso leaves. The service then starts back up again about 6 p.m. before ending about 11 p.m. for the final return trip.
It will be free to use until Oct. 31. The cost after that date hasn't been determined yet.
Lorntzen said they are trying to get the word out as much as possible with radio ads, flyers and more.
“We have posters up at the South Shore Line's stations as well,” he added.
The city's initial costs to start the service will be about $45,000, not including yearly expenses. With all of the grant money available, the city would have to pay about $30,000 each year.
Currently, the service will use repurposed V-Line buses that went out of service. The buses will be wrapped to look like the trains and have decals with the service's phone number and website. The initial buses may need to be replaced next year because they will be far beyond their service life.
Meanwhile, the city's new bus ticketing app is waiting for implementation after being approved in July.
Lorntzen said he's just waiting on the ticket validators.
The city plans on using Token Transit, an app that is used by other cities. Riders will be able to buy tickets or multiday passes from the app and have them scanned off their phones.
Lorntzen said it is available as a free download on Google Play and the Apple App Store.