Greenway expands facilities

Ridership on Greenway Public Transportation decreased since fiscal year 2008-09, but the organization is set to spend more than $5 million on facility improvements.

The new facilities, which include maintenance and office buildings, will save the organization $700,000 in the long run, said Ed Clifford, Greenway executive director.

Federal funding pays for about 50 percent of leasing costs for the organization’s current facilities. In contrast, federal funding will pay for about 90 percent of building costs for the new facilities. Clifford said the facilities will pay for themselves in about 17 years, and “anything after that is savings.” T

he facilities are deigned to meet Greenway’s needs for about 40 years, Clifford said. Greenway had about 290,000 riders for FY2009-10, which is less than the number of riders for FY 2008-09, Clifford said.

About 54 percent of the 2009-10 boardings were on Greenway buses, and the remaining riders were from the organization’s Dial-A-Ride service. About 10 passengers an hour ride Greenway buses, and about two passengers an hour use the Dial-A-Ride service. Clifford attributed the decrease in ridership to high unemployment levels and fluctuating gas prices.

“Groups that would normally ride the bus don’t have jobs to go to,” Clifford said.

As gas prices decrease, Greenway ridership also decreases. When gas prices soared to $4 a gallon, people turned to the transit system instead of paying high gas prices, Clifford said. But as prices decreased, more people returned to driving their vehicles.

“It really takes a sharp increase (in gas prices) to turn people out of their cars,” Clifford said. Each bus ride costs Greenway about $4.50, and each Dial-A-Ride pickup costs about $22.50.

“That’s not uncommon to have that type of disparity,” Clifford said, adding the Dial-A-Ride service often makes out of area trips, including doctor’s visits, for the elderly population.