Since service began in February, Chittenden County Transportation Authority’s Milton commuter bus has experienced ridership levels typical of a new route.
According to numbers provided by CCTA planning manager Meredith Birkett, Milton’s route attracts an average 918 riders per month.
March had the highest number with 1,049 people that dipped to 864 in April and 797 in May. Ridership increased to 857 in June, 948 in July and 995 in August.
Numbers typically fall when people are on summer vacation, Birkett said.
“The real test now is going to be September through May of next year, because that’s really when people are back to school and working more regular schedules,” she said. “People tend to ride commuter routes in the winter to avoid driving in bad weather.”
According to a survey given to 18 passengers this month, the majority of riders, or 45 percent, use the bus to get to work. Twenty-three percent ride it for social or recreational use, followed by shopping or medical appointments, both at 11 percent.
Most passengers, or 44 percent, take the bus because they cannot drive, the survey reported. Most riders are between 46 and 55 years old. Sixty-one percent ride the bus almost every day.
Dorothy Michaelson is one of those passengers. She takes the bus to her job at Fletcher Allen every day.
“It’s more convenient than trying to drive into town,” she said. “There’s no parking, and it lets somebody else do the driving, especially in the winter.”
Michaelson, who disembarked at the Milton Town Offices with co-passengers Carol Durett and Sandy Aldrich, is happy Milton has the service. All three said they’re making friends on the bus.
“We’ve been picking up more and more riders, so more and more people are using it,” Michaelson said.
Birkett said the most popular morning trip leaves the town offices at 6:50 a.m. and arrives at Burlington’s Cherry Street hub at 7:40 a.m. That route averages 9.5 passengers a day.
The most popular evening trip leaves Cherry Street at 4:20 p.m., arriving at the town offices at 5:05 p.m. A 5:20 p.m. departure time is also important for residents who work until 5 p.m., Birkett said.
“To provide convenient services, you have to provide options,” she said.
Despite the summer’s drop, Birkett is confident that bus ridership will increase. She’s happy that August’s numbers were only about 300 riders short of August totals in St. Albans, a three-year- old route.
“That’s really encouraging that [Milton is] a small community, and it’s closer to Burlington, so the commute isn’t as horrible as it is from St. Albans,” Birkett said. “The fact it has nearly as many passengers … we think is a good sign.”
With Milton’s continued growth, Birkett said residents’ need and use of public transportation will also increase.
“We’re really happy that we have current riders, and we think that with time, we’ll attract more,” she said.