More people are riding the bus than ever before, according to a report released by Riverside Transit Agency, which provides bus services to the Murrieta and Temecula Valley.
Ridership records have been smashed in eight of the last 12 months, adding up to an unprecedented number of RTA bus boardings in 2011, according to a news release from RTA Spokesperson Bradley Weaver.
A new report shows RTA buses carried more than 664,000 boardings in December, an 11 percent increase from December of 2010. Ridership on CommuterLink express routes was up 20 percent and Dial-A-Ride boardings climbed 16 percent, Weaver said.
"Those results bring RTA’s annual total to 8.4 million boardings, an all-time high for the 35-year-old agency," Weaver said.
The increase has been seen in routes serviced by RTA in the southwest Riverside County area, Weaver said.
Route 24, which serves Temecula, was up 14 percent from December 2010, Weaver said.
Route 61, which runs from Sun City to Mt. San Jacinto College in Menifee, then south with stops in Murrieta and Temecula, was up 31 percent, he said.
Route 79, which connects Hemet to Temecula with stops at the Southwest Justice Center and The Promenade mall, was up 24 percent.
CommuterLink Express Route 202, which connects Murrieta and Temecula with Oceanside, was up 17 percent.
CommuterLink Express Route 208, which connects Temecula, Murrieta, Sun City and Perris with Riverside, was up 21 percent.
RTA’s previous record was set in 2009 when buses handled 8.1 million passenger trips, Weaver said.
Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister currently serves as chairman of the board for RTA.
“This growth reflects the value of public transportation in the communities we serve,” McAllister said, in the news release. “We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our customers and the boost in ridership is evidence that we are headed in the right direction.”
The ridership surge indicates that RTA continues to be a low-cost transportation solution for more people faced with high gas prices and a troubled economy, Weaver said.
Other factors appear to be driving the ridership skyward, he said.
"RTA frequently adjusts schedules and routing to enhance on-time performance and connectivity not only between RTA buses, but between RTA buses and Metrolink trains.
"The Agency has also expanded its and U-Pass programs to include more schools, giving a growing number of college students unlimited bus rides."
Weaver said when it comes to growing ridership, RTA is not alone.
He pointed out a recent report from the American Public Transportation Association. The report showed that more Americans rode buses, commuter railroads and subways during the third quarter of 2011.
Nationally, Weaver said the two-percent jump in transit ridership over the same period in 2010 marks the first time in three years that ridership has increased for all three quarters.
"RTA’s 2011 ridership is nearly eight percent higher than it was in 2010," Weaver said.
Micheal P. Melaniphy, APTA president and CEO, said the increase in ridership shows Americans want more transportation choices and will use public transportation if it is available in their communities.
“Also, transit agency investments are paying off, resulting in riders experiencing a higher level of quality service," Melaniphy said, in the news release.
Weaver said RTA’s service area spans 2,500 square miles in western Riverside County, making it the second largest in the nation.