ATA Bus Executive Director Anne Smith says it’s not necessary to own a car to travel around Manhattan efficiently.

And after listening to rider feedback, ATA Bus — also known as the Flints Hills Area Transportation Agency — has expanded and altered routes, leading to a 154% increase in ridership in the last year.

The idea, Smith said, is to cater to residents, especially those who don’t own cars, by creating stops at popular shopping and medical areas. According to ATA data, 1 in 10 residents renting in Manhattan do not own a vehicle.

“We really, really want to try to meet the needs that our customers have,” Smith said. “It’s a true, economic lifeline for them.”

Last year, the department added 13 transfer locations as opposed to just one in the city.

Additionally, the department added, removed and reconfigured routes, effective July 29, after evaluating stop frequency data.

Route changes

Here are just some of the recent changes:

• The red route changed to Route 1, extending west to Westloop and Candlewood.

• The green route is now Route 4, adding a stop at the City Park.

• The blue route split into two, creating routes 2 and 5. Route 2 adds stops along Scenic Drive and a stop at Village Plaza, while Route 5 has more stops along College Avenue.

• The K-18 Connector, or yellow route, is now Route 3 with additional stops at the high school going northbound and Redbud Estates.

• The orange route split into two, making routes that add a new stop at Kansas State University, among other stops.

“We’ve come so far, and I’m really excited to see where things are headed,” Smith said.

The department has seen a sharp increase in riders since May 2018; as of data from May 2019, ridership has increased by more than 1 1/2 across Manhattan over the past year.

Summer and fall

Over the summer with increased construction, Smith advises riders to be patient as some construction hot spots, such as in northern Manhattan and around Kimball, causes slight delays.

To initiate the changes, ATA Bus hosts classroom training for bus drivers and dispatchers to learn the new changes.

In addition to route differences, the buses running through Kansas State University are gaining a facelift. Each bus is adorned with a different Willie the Wildcat design, Smith said.

“We’re really excited about those,” she said. “So we’ve kind of worked with K-State for quite awhile, and ‘so alright, let’s think outside the box, and how do we make things easier for students on campus to differentiate the buses.’ … They’re turning out very nicely.”

Smith said ATA Bus is creating a schedule at this time for K-State football game days.

A schedule will be posted on the department’s website once it is complete.

Moving forward, the department hopes to add bus shelters by the end of the year as well as continue to expand the routes, Smith said.

Additional information about bus route changes can be found on the ATA Bus homepage on the Riley County website. The address is rileycountyks.gov/1683/Bus-Routes.