Head of CATS identifies why bus ridership has declined and how we can reverse the trend

CATS CEO John Lewis presented at Wednesday’s monthly Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) meeting on ridership and fare trends. He acknowledged that bus ridership has declined and stated at both the beginning and end of his presentation that he believes it’s largely due to CATS not fully meeting the mobility needs of its current and potential riders.

“Many people spend an inordinate amount of time getting to and from work each day…We will bring back to the MTC a series of proposals that will get us to a targeted level of average trips [trip duration]. So if we accept that if an average trip is 90 minutes, what will it take to get it to 60? What will it take, from an investment standpoint, to get it to 45 or 30? And that will be a decision for the MTC to make. As ridership on our buses continues to drop, I think that is a result of us not meeting the needs of the community and mobility needs of our customers, and I believe that Envision My Ride will go a long way towards solving that,” said Lewis.

Lewis also gave an update on the new fare boxes that have been installed in all CATS buses. Since they were installed in September 2016, cash bus fare revenues have increased 10.5% in the past 4 months. But more study is needed to understand how much of this change is revenue is due to the new technology.

Representatives of the Citizen Transit Advisory Group (CTAG) and Transit Services Advisory Committee (TSAC) both publicly acknowledged Sustain Charlotte’s work on Walk2Transit and support for Envision My Ride during their work group reports at the beginning of tonight’s meeting. CTAG’s co-chair, Matt Covington, encouraged the MTC to focus more on walkability to transit stopsso more current and potential users can easily reach CATS service. TSAC’s co-chair, Terry Lansdell, told MTC delegates that they’re in a fortunate position of having a transit advocacy organization to support their goals and should pay close attention to the work we’re doing to support transit riders.

We applaud John Lewis and CATS staff for their transparency and willingness to acknowledge that major changes are needed to reverse the decline in bus ridership.

We attend the monthly MTC meetings and share important updates with you. Why not join us for a meeting? They’re open to the public and it’s a fascinating opportunity to learn how transit funding and planning decisions are made! MTC meetings are normally held on the fourth Wednesday of each month in room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center at 600 East Fourth Street. Click here for details.

Sustain Charlotte’s transit advocacy work is funded by TransitCenter and American Public Transportation Association.

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