Ridership on Charlottesville Area Transit buses is up, reversing a recent trend towards fewer passengers.

“We’re tracking toward having ridership levels close to where we were in 2012,” said John Jones. “[2012 was] the highest year in our history.”

Jones reported at a meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization last week that CAT experienced four straight months of double-digit growth in ridership in the first four months of 2015 compared to the first four months of 2014.

Overall, ridership levels from July 2014 to March 2015 are up 7.3 percent from the same period in the previous fiscal year.  

Jones said more University of Virginia students are riding city buses and there are higher ridership rates on the Route 7 bus between downtown and Fashion Square Mall.

Routes that serve city neighborhoods are holding steady with a constant rate of ridership. The recent growth reverses nearly three years of declining ridership for CAT.

Jones said new fareboxes, which were expected to go into service earlier this month, have been delayed to the end of July. The fareboxes will feature new technologies like plastic farecards that offer more flexible purchase options for riders. They will also collect more accurate data on ridership.

Jones also reported on the progress of the Growing Opportunities Driver program, which is seeking to provide jobs to low-income residents. The GO Driver program will train 13 people in June with the new drivers headed to JAUNT and CAT.

For the first time, a new partnership between CAT and Charlottesville City Schools will assist bus drivers who work for either division to earning a living wage and attain full-time work.

“Beginning on July 1, the wages [for bus drivers of both CAT and schools] will be in parity,” Jones said. “We will be adjusting the job descriptions so that as long as a driver in either division has the proper training to drive a school bus, they will be able to drive both CAT and school busses under one job description in the city and be paid the same wages.”

This partnership will allow drivers who only had part-time work in the past to gain full-time employment by driving for both divisions. School bus drivers will see a bump in wages as a result of this collaborative program.

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