Following the Dec. 1 implementation of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s Route Optimization Initiative, the number of passengers increased more than 9 percent compared to December 2013.
Brad Thoburn, JTA vice president of long-range planning and system development, reported Wednesday to the authority’s board of directors that average weekday ridership increased by 6.6 percent, Saturday usage increased by 8.3 percent and the passenger count was up on Sundays by 17.3 percent.
He said even accounting for the spike in usage the first week of December when riding the bus was free, the passenger count for December was up 2.2 percent compared to 2013.
“It’s nice to see stable ridership after a major change,” Thoburn said.
He attributed the overall increase to the addition of late night and weekend service on many routes.
The new system involved changing the schedules for all routes and eliminating some routes and bus stops. One part of the redesign was intended to better utilize the Downtown Skyway system.
Thoburn said, excluding the first week of the new system, the number of Skyway users in December increased by 23.9 percent compared to December 2013. In January, Skyway riders increased by about 20 percent, from 80,111 in 2013 to 100,038 last month.
Changes to the Community Shuttle system have not been as well accepted by customers. The authority reports January ridership at 7,852 passengers, compared to 45,284 in January 2014. Thoburn said that may be due to stops being eliminated.
Complaints about bus service also increased after the new routes went into effect. Thoburn didn’t provide statistics, but he said that was to be expected.
When the new routes went into effect, the authority said there likely would be adjustments made in March. Carl Weckenmann, senior manager of system planning, said Wednesday any changes will be slight. One will be improving bus identification, since in the original plan, some buses that travel different routes display the same bus numbers, which could confused riders. Additional early morning weekday service also may be added to some routes in March.
Nathaniel Ford, JTA CEO, said the new system is being evaluated by other public transportation providers. He presented the local plan Feb. 9 at a convention of transit executives.
“ROI has gotten national attention. We expect to get many guests who will come to Jacksonville to observe our system,” he said.