Fuel costs driving more in Rowan to take the bus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Bus ridership in Salisbury is up dramatically thus far this year.
According to Rodney Harrison, the city’s transit manager, there have been about 141,000 riders on the buses through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year.
That’s an increase of 7 percent from the previous year.
By comparison, there was an increase of 4.58 percent in ridership between the 2005-2006 fiscal year and 2006-2007.
Harrison said the spike in gas prices has surely had an influence on bus ridership.
“As gas prices go up, we see our ridership increase,” he said.
There was also, Harrison said, a positive reaction to last summer’s offer of free rides on days when the ozone level reached dangerous levels.
That offer goes into effect again June 1 and continues through the end of July. The city will give free rides on days when the ozone reaches orange or red levels.
The city’s transit hotline provides a daily update on those ozone levels. The hotline number is 704-216-7537.
Harrison said there are other reasons for the increase in bus ridership. He said drivers are instructed to bend over backwards to be courteous to riders.
“We want to show riders we care,” Harrison said.
He said the decision to take a bus as opposed to hopping in a car is one that takes time to develop throughout a community. It’s a gradual process, Harrison said.
He said the spike in gas prices is helping that process take hold nationwide. An increased interest in the environment is also helping, Harrison said.
“We have to get people out of the mindset that they have to drive their car everywhere they go,” he said. “We’ve got to get people thinking, ‘If I’m just going to the mall, I’ll take the bus.’ ”
Salisbury buses run six routes through the community. Ridership is $1, with senior citizens and the handicapped riding for 50 cents.
Salisbury’s increase in bus ridership is reflected in mass transit ridership nationwide.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, since 1995, ridership on mass transit has increased 32 percent. A year ago, nationwide, there were 10.3 billion trips taken on mass transit, the highest number in 50 years.
Here are a few other facts about mass transportation (which includes everything from buses to trains to ferries) provided by the American Public Transportation Association:
– Each year, public transportation use saves the equivalent of 34 supertankers of oil, or a supertanker leaving the Middle East every 11 days.
– Public transportation use saves the equivalent of 300,000 fewer automobile fill-ups every day.
– Every $1 invested in public transportation projects generates $6 in local economic activity.
– Public transportation produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide, 90 percent less in volatile organic compounds and about half as much carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, per passenger mile, as private vehicles. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions represent 82 percent of total U.S. human-made greenhouse emissions.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.