The recent surge in ATA Bus ridership — to more than 900 riders a day — is certainly good news. So is Monday’s projection by ATA Bus Director Anne Smith that the agency could well set a record for ridership this month.
But neither should be a surprise, with classes at Kansas State University having resumed last week. As Ms. Smith told the Riley County Commission, “We added additional buses to the Jardine route for lunch and dinner,” as well as stops at Dillons in Westloop, Ray’s Apple Market and Call Hall and the Derby Dining Center on the K-State campus.
To ATA Bus’s credit, its routes seem well-thought-out, including the two fixed routes that Ms. Smith told county commissioners have been made final. One of those runs every half hour from the eastside Dillons northwest to the roundabout at Candlewood and Gary avenues. The other runs northeast once an hour from Target to Butterfield Road in Northview.
It’s reasonable to suppose that ridership will increase further, even apart from KSU students going to and from campus, when Bus Stop signs have been erected at every stop on the fixed routes. Those signs aren’t mere conveniences; they’re essential to the success of the fixed routes. It’s disappointing that more signs aren’t already in place but heartening that ATA Bus and the county are working to address that problem.
We hope residents recognize and take advantage of the economy and convenience that ATA Bus offers. Already, KSU’s SafeRide, the Edwards Shuttle and the Jardine route are free with KSU IDs. Otherwise, fixed route fares cost $1 for adults and 50 cents for children 6 to 18 years old. A monthly pass costs $30. All of those rates are bargains compared to the cost of getting around via automobile. Gas alone costs $3.65 a gallon.
It’s worth noting that ATA Bus — the Riley County Area Transportation Agency — has operated on a smaller scale since 1976. It’s a private nonprofit agency that also serves residents in Geary and Pottawatomie counties. Ridership fees are important, certainly, but they don’t come close to paying ATA Bus’s bills.
The agency gets funding from a variety of other sources: KSU, Riley County, the City of Manhattan, the Manhattan-Ogden School District, Geary and Pottawatomie counties, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Federal Transit Administration and donations.
For further information, give ATA Bus a call at 537-6345 or visit www.rileycountyks.gov.