By Lauren Captain
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
Your preference of transportation mode matters on a normal day, but this past St. Patrick’s Day CATA buses overpowered the inclinations of some to use their own motor vehicle.
CATA’s Entertainment Express, that runs every week Thursday to Sunday to offer a primary mode of sober transportation, was helping the cause to promote against drinking and driving. The Entertainment Express is used in hopes of consumers helping themselves and other pedestrians from drunk driving accidents, not only this day, but every time the trolley rolls around.
“Keep in mind that with or without the free-sober ride offer, CATA was already scheduled to operate Entertainment Express between the Capitol and East Lansing, and that the majority of those riders own a Student Semester pass, giving them unlimited rides aboard all fixed-route services, meaning they wouldn’t have had to pay any more to ride on St. Patrick’s Day,” Laurie Robison, the director of marketing for CATA services.
“Even so, ridership for March 17, 2016, was more than quintuple our average Thursday ridership in March 2015, and almost quadrupled our average Thursday ridership in March 2012, when St. Patrick’s Day fell on a beautifully sunny Saturday,” Robison continues.
The normal fare to ride the Entertainment Express CATA trolley, or any other fixed route, is $1.25 or with discounts, 60 cents But from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day it was free as the bus came every 15 minutes to benefit their customers.
This idea to give sober rides on important events was created a few years back when CATA partnered with the Office of Highway Safety Planning to raise awareness and the consequences of drinking and driving. This will continue through the years, just like availability of free rides during election season and Santa free rides during the holiday season.
“More than anything else, the free sober rides was a goodwill gesture to promote safety. We did consider whether the service would encourage non-riders to give CATA a try or seldom riders to ride more, but our primary goal – first and foremost – was to convey CATA’s commitment to public safety and responsible merrymaking, ” says Robison.
CATA was not only offering their free ride service to only benefit and increase their consumer values and business, but for the genuine concern of the safety in the community, which also happens to go along with way the state of Michigan in general.
“Rather than getting behind the wheel and counting on luck this St. Patrick’s Day, catch a free sober ride with CATA,” Sandy Draggo, CATA’s CEO/executive director announced a few days before the annual celebration on CATA’s website.
Throughout Michigan, officers have reported that they will be cracking down more severely on drinking and driving. The time of severity will be taking place through the dates of March 16 to April 4 due to the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day and college/high school spring breakers and the basketball tournaments that go through the month of March.
In 2015 over 2,000 people in Michigan were arrested for drunk driving throughout the tournament of March Madness, which is also the time St. Patrick celebrators are observed.
Meridian Township Assistant Chief Plaga reminds everyone to celebrate safely through not only the month of March, but in any celebratory times. With CATA’s free ride service on these days, it is extremely important to take notice of when its safe and unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.