The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) published March 2015 ridership figures that indicate four straight months of ridership growth after implementing the Route Optimization Initiative (ROI).
Without additional annual operating costs, JTA completely reconfigured its routes to make routes more direct, improve service frequency, provide more service in the evenings and weekends, and better coordinate schedules. JTA also implemented real-time passenger information with the launch of ROI on Dec. 1, 2014.
In March alone, ridership was up 10.1% in 2015 compared to March of 2014. Average weekday ridership was up 7% and even greater increases were seen on weekends. The average ridership on Saturdays increased by 10% and on Sundays by 15%. The Ridership average over the first four months since implementation is up 6% with more than 200,000 trips over the same period last year.
When JTA launched ROI, its goal was to maintain stable ridership initially and attain long-term ridership growth. Generally, major bus service changes result in initial ridership decline. Since ROI was a complete overhaul of the bus routes, the potential for initial ridership loss was very high.
“The numbers are great in that they give us an indication of how ROI is working,” said Nathaniel Ford, Sr., JTA’s CEO. “The true gratification is behind the numbers. These are people who are using our system to get to jobs, visit friends and families, go shopping, or see the doctor. This shows that if we put a better service out there, people will use it. It will make people’s lives better and strengthen our community. It’s much more than numbers to us.”
On March 2, JTA implemented minor route modifications to address initial feedback and additional changes will be made in July. These will largely refine the service and schedules to improve on time performance. In December 2015, JTA will launch the North Corridor First Coast Flyer (FCF) bus rapid transit.
FCF will be a premium service with 10-minute peak hour frequency, new branded compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, superstops with real-time passenger information and ticket vending machines at hubs and transit signal priority to allow buses to move quickly through the FCF corridor. This service launch will coincide with grand opening of a new CNG fueling facility that will not only fuel JTA buses, but allow other fleets to access a public station at JTA’s Myrtle Avenue campus.