Report: YCAT Ridership Has Tripled Since 2011

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 3:12 pm, Mon Mar 17, 2014.

By Mara Knaub

Yuma was listed among the cities with record ridership by the American Public Transportation Association.

The number of passengers riding the Yuma County Area Transit bus system has tripled since the formation of the Yuma County Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority in 2011.

YCAT ridership went from 800 passenger trips a day in 2011 to 2,500 in 2014. Annually, YCAT transported passengers on 260,000 trips in 2011 and 381,000 in 2013.

This follows the national trend. In 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, which is the highest annual public transit ridership number in 57 years, according to a recently released APTA report.

This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” noted Peter Varga, APTA chair and CEO of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

According to YCIPTA Transit Director John Andoh, local ridership has increased due to several key factors. YCIPTA established partnerships with Arizona Western College, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University allowing students, employees and faculty to ride YCAT for free. The program was funded by a $5 fee assessed to each student, employee and faculty member.

This program was expanded to Aztec High School, Yuma Private Industry Council and SMILE (Services Maximizing Independent Living and Empowerment) at a cost of $45 a semester per student and employee.

Yuma Regional Medical Center also participates in the same program. The hospital pays for all employees and volunteers to ride all routes unrestricted, free of charge.

YCIPTA also strives to operate the system similarly to a private business and not a government subsidized operation, Andoh said.

Innovations included selling Greyhound tickets, Yuma Sun and Imperial Valley Press newspapers on-board and advertisements on the buses, website, bus shelters, bus benches and inside the Rider’s Guide.

Special shuttle services such as the HolidayCAT Holiday Light Tours and Yuma Visitors Bureau and Information Center events also helped with the ridership increases, Andoh noted.

In addition, YCIPTA continues to review the route structure every six months to provide buses where and when demand warrants it.

“The changes to date have improved system-wide productivity,” Andoh said.

Also, to increase ridership and revenue in volume, YCIPTA simplified and streamlined fares and now offers “value pricing” for long-range passes. The agency eliminated a zone-based fare and went to a one-fare system for basic riders and discount riders.

Nationally, since 1995, public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled, which is up 22.7 percent, according to the report.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services, and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said Michael Melaniphy, APTA president and CEO.

“Access to public transportation matters,” Melaniphy added. “Community leaders know that public transportation investment drives community growth and economic revitalization.”

The report indicates that another reason behind the ridership increases is the economic recovery in certain areas. When more people are employed, public transportation ridership increases since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.

“The federal investment in public transit is paying off and that is why Congress needs to act this year to pass a new transportation bill,” Melaniphy said.