Local News

Downtown Growth Could Help Raleigh's Bus System

Posted September 19, 2007 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2007 6:20 p.m. EDT

— About 95 percent of Raleigh residents do not use the city's Capital Area Transit, but downtown growth and other factors could help turn the bus system around.

"The bottom line, though, is only about 5 percent of the people who go to work each morning ride the bus," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. "And, as a community, we need to improve that so we have less congestion and less air pollution."

Overall, Meeker said, CAT bus ridership is up about 20 percent within the last two years. Part of that is new service, he said. Another reason is gas prices.

Downtown parking prices are also changing.

"Parking used to be $15 a month," Meeker said. "Now, it's $70 or $80 a month downtown. So, it's making more sense to ride the bus each year."

But because there are a lot of empty seats on CAT buses, the system loses money. More frequent service, which would make bus service more convenient, could help. Downtown growth could help because more people are going to one place and more people are taking the bus.

The city has tried for decades to improve the bus system and increase ridership. Meeker said the city would like to break even, but it will continue to take a loss because the CAT buses are the only option for many city residents.

"Bus fares do not pay for the cost of the service. We recover about 15 or 20 percent of the cost of the service from the fares," Meeker said. "There is some federal help, but mainly, it just comes from the general fund."