Madison Metro reported the bus system experienced a slight decline in ridership in 2012, mainly due to a lower level of campus usage.
Madison Metro spokesperson Mick Rusch said people rode the bus 14,592,214 times in 2012. This is down from the 14,923,970 bus rides people took in 2011. Rusch said Madison Metro is not concerned about the slight dip because 2011 was an all-time high in ridership.
Rusch said he attributed the slight dip in ridership to students in the downtown area riding the bus less.
“Our buses are still extremely full,” Rusch said.
Rusch said one of the main reasons ridership decreased is because of reductions in Route 80 service. He said overall, ridership was down 2.2 percent in 2012. However, he said if the University of Wisconsin campus area was taken out of the calculation, ridership would have went up 1.7 percent.
Metro bus services at UW were cut back after UW’s Transportation Department reduced their budget, Rusch said.
“We worked with them to minimize impact on students but also meet their budget,” Rusch said.
Route 80 through 84 remain free. He said students have been riding other buses where they need to swipe their bus pass, such as Route 6, more frequently this year. He said Metro is paid $1.15 per swipe.
Rusch said the City of Madison discussed raising bus fares for 2013, but decided against the measure. He said they instead chose targeted fare increases, meaning only the prices of 31-day bus passes and 31-day senior disabled bus passes have been raised to $58 and $29 respectively.
He said this will raise $60,000 for Madison Metro and the extra revenue will go toward helping buses that are extremely full on some routes, including University Avenue.
“Things are going well and we appreciate UW students riding the bus,” Rusch said.
Ald. Bridget Maniaci, District 2, said the city is excited city ridership is generally increasing at the rate it is. She said it is a difficult situation because although ridership is going up, the city cannot add as many routes as it would like.
She said Metro’s annual budget is approximately $50 million. The money Metro takes in from fares alone is approximately $15 million.
Maniaci said she was upset with UW Transportation for cutting the SAFEride bus route, which runs at night. SAFEride buses used to come every 15 minutes. Due to budget cuts, however, it now only comes every 30 minutes, and an area of about one quarter mile was cut from service. She said this is a challenge for graduate students and other students who live further from the university.
Maniaci said she is looking to initiate a late-night circulatory route. She said the route she envisions would go from Capitol Square to the Barrymore Theater and would make stops along Willy Street and other high student density areas.
She said the route would run Friday and Saturday nights during the school year and would cost $35,000. The route would provide safe, late-night transportation between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m
“It would serve everybody,” she said. “Everybody in neighborhoods from Capitol Square to Barrymore theater.”