By Safiyyah Ballard
LOGAN–Carolyn Johnson chose to get rid of her car after her husband developed Alzheimer’s-related dementia. “As the dementia got worse, it seemed easier to just get rid of the car so it wasn’t an issue whenever he got the urge to drive.”
Johnson has lived in Logan for 35 years and has been a Cache Valley Transiit District (CVTD) rider for the past five. She said the best part about the bus is that it is fare free. “The rowdy school kids are the worst part,” Johnson said with a laugh.
The USU College of Engineering conducted a rider survey in 2008 that tracked the demography and motivation of CVTD passengers. Based on that survey, Johnson represents a small demographic of senior riders who rely on public transportation for various reasons. The “rowdy school kids” under the age of 18 make up about a quarter of the riders. The average CVTD rider is an 18- to 24-year-old English-speaking college student who takes the bus to get to school.
Lisa Peterson, director of marketing and public relations for CVTD, said that there has been an increase in ridership since January 2010. Peterson said there is a trip count done every day on every bus to track ridership. CVTD is fare-free public transportation and their website cites one of the reasons as keeping operating costs low.
Bill Bowen has been a bus driver for CVTD since August 2009. Bowen said there are a lot of school kids that ride the bus for various reasons. “Some of the kids choose to ride the bus, while others go to charter schools that don’t have a bus system, so they rely on ours.”
Bowen said there is the occasional fight or excessive display of public affection, but the majority of the kids are very well-behaved. “If there were a fare added, it may affect ridership, especially for these kids.”
Elizabeth Woldemichael, a married USU student and mother, said she takes the bus almost every day. “If I can’t get a ride with friends to the grocery store, I just take the bus.”
Woldemich also uses the transit system to go to school, work and to take her toddler son, Nardos, to and from daycare. “I lived in California, and the bus there ran until midnight, but it would cost up to $7 a day.”
Sebastian Kind, a USU student from Sweden, says there isn’t much to do in Logan, but he takes the bus whenever he has to go somewhere. “I take the bus to go to school and go grocery shopping, but not much else.”
Kind said he had a bus system in Sweden, but it was not free. Kind is the most common type of CVTD rider.
Eddie Ruby and Michael Bruckner both have cars, but they take the bus for recreational purposes. “We ride the bus to get up to campus and then we long board back down,” Ruby said. Bruckner added that it was more convenient to just take the bus. They both said they would not ride the bus if there were a fare.
According to the survey, nearly half of those that use public transportation are choice riders. As of 2008, about 44 percent of riders owned a vehicle, but choose to ride the bus for convenience.
“Right now we can’t expand our services due to a lack of funding, until there can be another tax increase,” Peterson said. “There were changes made last year to accommodate increases in ridership and lack of funding,”
CVTD added the 15-minute service of Route 1 during peak hours and eliminated stops that had low ridership.
Peterson said lack of knowledge about the bus system makes people afraid to use it. “We encourage everyone to use it. It saves money, helps reduce the number of cars on the road and that helps with reducing congestion and pollution in the environment.
“It’s fare-free. Everyone can find a reason to use the bus and a route that works for them.”
The CVTD Board meetings are held every 4th Wednesday at the Bridgerland Applied Technology College at 5:45 p.m.
(05-11-2010: Correction appended: Board meetings are held at Bridgerland Applied Technology College.)