Courier Staff Writer
Ottumwa Transit has seen a huge jump in ridership in a year’s time.
From October 2011 to October 2012, ridership grew from 15,370 to 23,479.
“I’m really proud of these numbers,” said Ottumwa Transit Executive Director Diane Gawronski. “I’m grateful to the riders who offer their support to Ottumwa Transit. I’m hoping that means they see the value in our low fares and appreciate the polite drivers.”
Now, Gawronski said she expects they’ll see increased ridership through the end of the year due to holiday shopping.
“The airport shuttle has jumped considerably, and I think that is probably due to the expanded phase at Job Corps,” she said. “The east-west route shows a substantial increase, as does the north route.”
The airport route starts downtown, then goes to the airport campus, correctional residential facility, Indian Hills and back downtown.
The north route starts downtown, goes to Jefferson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Fourth Street and Iowa Avenue, Ottumwa Regional Health Center, Indian Hills, Tractor Supply and Hy-Vee North.
The east-west route starts downtown, then goes to Second Street and Taft Avenue, Tenco Industries, back downtown, Herrmann Avenue and Main Street, Fourth Street and Iowa Avenue and Main and Ash streets.
“It’s quite an increase,” said City Administrator Joe Helfenberger. “Where we see the biggest increase is to shopping areas, the south commercial and south residential and the shuttles to Walmart and Hy-Vee.”
In October, the south residential route saw nearly 20 percent of all riders, the airport and east-west routes saw nearly 18 percent, the south commercial route saw 15 percent and the north route saw 13 percent.
In October 2011, the most frequented routes were the south residential route with 25 percent of riders and the east-west, north and south commercial routes with approximately 18 percent of riders each.
Helfenberger said there was a “healthy increase across the board.”
“The Ottumwa Transit is financially sound,” Helfenberger said. “I think the increase in ridership significantly contributes to that.”
The largest demographic of riders continues to be students, making up 35 percent of riders this October compared to 33 percent of riders a year prior.
With the addition of Don Sanders as garage supervisor, a new vehicle maintenance reporting system has also been established.
“They’re doing a detailed maintenance report by vehicle on all parts and labor for each vehicle each month,” Helfenberger said. “They’re able to track all maintenance by vehicle from here on out. We’ll be able to easily identify which vehicles are performing better than others, so when we’re going to replace or trade, we’ll know which buses to keep and which need to be recirculated or sold.”
Ottumwa Transit staff have suggested that Sanders study the current issues and come up with a recommendation to the board about the potential of buying new buses.
Gawronski also said the public can check Ottumwa Transit’s Facebook page for updates at www.facebook.com/ottumwatransit.
The advisory board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23, 2013.