I hope my ideas and comments do not come off as bashing CATA. I was kind of brainstorming ideas to increase ridership. Just yesterday I overheard some saying he doesn't take the bus because of the "kind" of people he meets riding the bus. Changing the image from "poor" people ride CATA to "smart" people ride CATA is one way that could increase ridership. More and better-designed stop shelters that protect riders from the weather could also help. I could see shelters designed for just one or two at many more stops. I'm already downtown so I do not have to transfer, It's good to hear that you don't have to.
Nope, that wasn't really directed at you. Though, I do have to say that while they can do a better job of attracting choice riders, CATA is definitely one of the bus agencies I've found with a much greater cross-section of passengers than most transit systems. It's not as stigmatized as bus system as it is in other places I've been.
More than anything as it relates to image, it's just become kind of tired to most folks. Maybe a name-change or logo-change or television advertising or something is in order. I'm not sure, but I'd like to see CATA acknowledge that they have a problem, and so far they've mostly been chugging along as if nothing is happening.
I see, the image is a problem and I agree with you. It's is not what I say, about folks who ride the bus or even the people themselves who do ride the bus. I think it is a stigma from people who do not ride the bus, how would they know who rides the bus or what is like, and it might be those people who CATA could work on and change that opinion.
I guess for me, I've noticed that I can bicycle to where I'm going a lot faster than the bus can get me there. So I only take the bus when the weather is bad. I live and work in Lansing and my bike is over twice as fast as the bus. For me it takes about 40 minutes to go a little over 3 miles on the bus, and I'm basically just traveling across the heart of the city.
Part of the problem is that I'm barely on the bus and I'm already stuck waiting at the transit center for another one. I guess I never thought of just staying on the bus at the transit center to find out if it becomes a different route. I could see that working out sometimes, but you're still losing 5-10 minutes.
That is so great that you use your bike so much. Do you ride the streets? Most are so bad. I do see a lot of people using the bike racks on the buses and just riding bikes on S.Washinton Ave. I think part of an overall transportation plan it would important to improve and expand a real bike paths network that serves bike commuters as well as for recreation. I have this fantasy about building a designated bike/small scooter way following the path of Kalamazoo Street and a north-south way could go down Pennslyvania or even Cedar.
I can think of two possible reasons contributing to CATA's ridership loss although I wouldn't doubt that there are management and/or company culture issues as well.
One obvious issue is that ridership peaked during the recession, the bad economy forced many people to give up cars meaning they turned to public transit. I don't think this is the main reason for the lower ridership but I do think it has contributed to the rise and subsequent loss as the economy has improved.
Another factor that may be affecting ridership are the number of students living closer to campus and the fact that CATA doesn't adequately serve some areas. A specific example are the Hannah Lofts and Lodges which house around 2000 residents and CATA won't make the detour down Hannah so they run a private bus service.
Thank you for that information, I had wondered about that private bus running through campus.
Compared to the recession, the price of gas is relatively cheap these days, when it was up around $4 a gallon lots of people parked the car and took the bus. Also, it has been mentioned here before that Cooley Law School has a couple thousand fewer students downtown, that might account for some of the declines in ridership.
I think putting buses where people are, makes good sense. Look at different types and sizes of buses, change the bus for the job. It seems a bit wasteful to see these huge double articulated buses hauling empty around East Lansing during the many weeks when school is not in. Attention to small things like that could save money and improve their image.
It is true however that better times mean fewer people ride public transit. The same thing has happened in Boston even though it is a Super Pain to drive in Boston and very expensive to park there the ridership on the T and commuter trains has declined.
Just speaking personally I would say that Uber is probably a factor, especially for slightly more affluent CATA riders - I myself have probably been taking less CATA rides because of the ease and low-cost of Uber. (And if we compared the "real cost" of a CATA ride, including tax-funding, to the real cost of an Uber, I think we might be frightened by how close those numbers are.) Just speaking personally, greater frequency of service would be the biggest improvement that could be made, but that's difficult with buses that can get behind schedule in traffic... as it is, already you will sometimes find buses that have caught up to the bus in front of them.
@gbdinlansing: I don't like riding in the streets on the main roads unless there's a bike lane, and even then I'm not a huge fan. I'll stick to the sidewalk and cut over to side streets if there's a lot of pedestrian traffic.
I will ride my bike on the street in most residential neighborhoods. Mostly I just like to relax when I'm on bike, and not have to worry if the guy pulling out of a parallel parking spot is paying attention to bicyclists. That's what guides my routes.
The river trail has actually worked out decently for me as a route connector. I think it's by far the best urban bike trail in Michigan. When I'm biking through the woods on my way to East Lansing... that's one of those moments where living in Lansing feels pretty alright. Ann Arbor might be the king of bicycle lanes, but Lansing/East Lansing is the king of bicycle paths.
Out in San Francisco, as I'm sure in other places, they have airport shuttle services that will pick you up at your home but also stops and picks up three or four other passengers before heading to the airport. I think that a bus ride sharing kind of program could be a way for CATA to be more convenient by offering a ride-hailing/sharing service at a fare cheaper than Uber.
I think express buses that only stop at a few "stations" might work to increase ridership. An express bus could go through traffic faster along busy streets by keeping up with the green light sequence and passing the local bus that has to stop at many stops. Maybe the express bus ride could have a higher fare. Offer express buses only at peak traffic times. Some express routes could even use 496 and 127. Just a couple more brilliant brainstorms:}