CATA ridership dips, remains strong

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By Andrew Krietz
The Lansing Star staff writer 

The wheels continue to turn forward for the Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, even in light of snowy Michigan weather.

During 2010, fixed-route services served about 10.9 million rides covering areas across East Lansing, Lansing and the townships of Delhi, Lansing and Meridian, said Debbie Alexander, CATA assistant executive director in an email.

When February’s blizzard kept buses off secondary streets, service continued on main roads in the region, such as Michigan and Grand River avenues, she said. The authority’s website, CATA.org, was and will continue to be updated in real time should conditions warrant.

Trips in 2010 were down about 26,900 fewer rides compared to a year prior and could be attributed to economic conditions affecting employers and riders.

Although cities statewide worry about additional cuts should Governor Rick Snyder’s budget pass by his proposed May 31 date, the authority should remain almost immune to possible financial shock waves across the state.

“The governor’s budget does not assess cuts to public transportation,” Alexander said. “CATA continues to cut costs and improve efficiencies wherever possible.”

To attract the community to its offerings, CATA operates an Entertainment Express trolley service, recently adding seven additional stops near area bars and restaurants.

Riders, such as Lansing resident Sahara Guttridge, make up a 32 percent ridership increase during 2010 over the previous year.

“When you go out during a Friday, you want to have a good time,” she said. “What’s better than riding a trolley during a late night in 2011?”

Dan Currie, a Lansing resident and Lansing Community College student, said he relies on CATA for daily commutes — not only to work but to visit friends in East Lansing during the weekends.

Given the numerous routes in the area, a ride on the bus sometimes beats the convenience of owning a car in a large city.

“The routes are convenient,” he said. “Buying a one-time monthly pass is cheaper than buying gallons of gas several times a week or so.”

According to the authority’s website, customers can purchase a regular one-way fare for $1.20 or 60 cents with a valid college ID. A 31-day pass costs $35.

Two weeks ago, officials announced April 1 as the kick off to “Lansing’s First Fridays” — a promotion to provide customers with free bus rides across each route after 7 p.m. during each Friday of the month.

If Currie has the day off, he said he might take advantage of the free offerings.

“Public transportation is definitely something more people should use,” he said. “Even though Lansing is a larger city, it’s nice sometimes to leave town for a bit and explore what’s around you and get that community feel.”
View CATA routes serving Lansing, East Lansing in a larger map

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