Clovis Area Transit System sees increase in riders

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Edie Valdez of Clovis gets off the CATS bus in front of her home Thursday on Axtell Street. Valdez said she takes the bus once a week to the hospital for volunteer work.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Clovis Area Transit System Director Mary Lou Kemp said bus ridership has increased 20 percent in the last month.

She attributed the spike to record-high gas prices.

In May, the bus service made about 4,900 trips, Kemp said. Trip numbers were at 3,227 by June 13, she said. She said average ridership is at 5,000 a month from January to May.

“We’re probably going to top 7,000 in June,” she said.

The bus service operates on a curb-to-curb basis with passengers required to schedule their trips a day in advance.

The increase in fuel costs and ridership has caused the service to increase its fuel budget twice this fiscal year.

The service’s fuel budget increased from about $56,000 to $63,000, according to Kemp. The city splits fuel costs with the federal funding.

At 75 cents a fare, the revenue from ridership does little to offset the fuel costs, she said. “It’s barely a dip in what the actual trip costs.”

The fiscal year ends in September, she said.

“Looking at it right now, we’re going to have to do another adjustment if we hope to make it through the end of September,” she said.

The city is considering implementing fixed-bus routes to make the service more cost-efficient. Kemp said she hopes to have the system in October. But she said she is still waiting to receive more direction from the city regarding the fixed routes.

“I see being able to transport more people with the same funding,” she said.

Kemp said the fares for the curb-to-curb service would have to increase if the city does not approve implementing fixed routes.

Bus ridership for the Greyhound station in Clovis remains the same from last year, according to Greyhound spokesman Dustin Clark. Greyhound had 6,038 passengers for 2007, he said.

He said any changes in the number of passengers could not be tied to increasing fuel prices.