October 2, 2012

Partners, tech keys to record Madison Metro year

Growing ridership by 1.3 million rides in 2011, Madison, Wis.-based Metro Transit shattered a 40-year ridership record by falling just short of 15 million rides.

“We think we’ll hit 15 million this year, but we hit 14.9 million rides last year,” explained Chuck Kamp, GM for Metro Transit. “It was not only the highest ridership in the last 40 years, but we’ve tried to go back to records we don’t have accurate numbers of and we beat all of those past years that we were able to find, including in 1952, when there was a fare increase and ridership was at 12 million.”

Kamp said that Metro Transit will receive APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation System Award for an agency with more than four million, fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually, in part due to its partners and employees.

“The political, community and academic leadership in Madison were the backbone for this happening, as well as our employees at Metro who drive every day in challenging situations,” he said. “While it’s great to have lots of pedestrians and bicyclists, it’s also a big challenge. Our drivers, mechanics and customer service staff helped people figure out our system and delivered safety, day in and day out, last year, as well as in previous years.”  

Kamp also attributes Metro’s success to being in a college town, citing a couple of well-publicized studies reporting that the so-called “Generation Y” is both delaying getting their driver’s license as well as shrinking the amount of vehicle miles traveled, overall.

“There is just a growing awareness, and we have to be careful of how we use our land, our limited fuel and other scarce resources. I think young people get that,” he said.

With that, Metro is also making it easier to travel on its system through the use of Google Maps and a smartphone app, which help riders get to and from their stops and find out where their bus is.

“Now, if you’re a student drinking coffee at a coffee shop and it’s raining, and you see that your bus is late by 10 minutes, you don’t need to leave the coffee shop,” said Kamp. “You can sit there drinking coffee, monitoring your smartphone, and then, leave right before your bus arrives. That is huge.”

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