Metro bus ridership falls

July 28, 2018

BOURBONNAIS — Ridership on the River Valley Metro bus system fell to its lowest level since the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2009.

However, all is not doom and gloom.

Bus system officials anticipate numbers to begin trending upward again as needed route changes were implemented last year. In addition, a fleet of 17 brand new buses will be here by early 2019.

For fiscal year 2018, Ken Munjoy, the system’s chief operating officer, reported that ridership came in at 676,179 — an 18 percent decline from the 2017 fiscal year when 819,765 rides were provided.

Munjoy said there were two chief reasons for the decline.

First, he noted, the system was rebounding from the loss of two fixed routes and Sunday service from the previous year because of state budget issues. Secondly, the system’s routes were changed and that unsettled riders causing them to find other transportation for a portion of the year.

“These down numbers, we anticipated,” Munjoy said. “Every decision we make is based on what is best for our riders. We are positioned to grow once again.”

The metro system had been inching ever so close to providing 1 million rides in a year. In fiscal year 2015, the system provided 993,018 rides. Ridership totals have dropped each of the three years since that peak.

There will be much excitement surrounding the system this year.

About 17 new buses will make their way to the Bourbonnais-based system. Munjoy expects to have all these buses on hand by February or March. The buses were purchased with $3 million from federal and state government sources, he said.

The metro system, started in July 1999, is divided into three segments. There are 11 fixed local routes, service to the University Park public transit system and Midway Airport plus the Americans With Disability service.

Munjoy noted the fixed-route service declined by 19 percent this past year and ADA service was down 2 percent. Ridership on the Unversity Park/Midway routes increased by 9 percent with a total of 31,226 rides. In FY 2017, the total was 28,754.

Service to University Park began in November 2005. Service to Midway started in January 2014.

He also noted that while ridership was down throughout the year on fixed routes, ridership numbers steadily improved throughout the year. He noted in the first quarter of 2018, ridership was down by 32 percent. By the year’s final quarter, ridership was down from the previous year’s fourth quarter by just 6 percent.

The system is in operation 365 days per year. It provides service from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

In the system’s first fiscal year, only 77,128 rides were provided. In the 2018 fiscal year, the strongest month in terms of ridership was March. That one month alone saw 60,169 rides provided.

Concerning hitting the 1 million mark of annual rides, Munjoy could not offer a guess as to when that could happen. He would only state that he expects steady growth in the coming months and years.

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