The Owensboro Transit System (OTS) is seeing significant growth across the City of Owensboro. According to OTS Manager Pamela Canary, the uptick in city-wide transit riders is due to a systematic approach to improve and expand public transportation for the community.
By focusing in on public awareness, utilizing both social media and local media sources, the creation of a trolley pamphlet, implementing special group ride requests, attending local college orientations and even hand-delivering information to the public, Canary said OTS could see a 25 percent increase in ridership from last year.
“Recently, Owensboro Transit entered into an agreement with Kentucky Wesleyan and Owensboro Community College to allow their students to ride at no charge for a flat fee,” Canary told city commissioners on July 9. “With KWC being downtown, it afforded the opportunity to enhance their transportation agreement to include downtown trolley service on Fridays and Saturdays.”
Free ride days, such as Dump the Pump Day, Get on Board for Public Transportation and 12 Days of Christmas, have promoted the importance of the City transit system to more residents across the community, Canary said.
“Whether you ride or not, public transportation is valuable to your community by stimulating the economy,” she said. “It provides transportation for seniors and also helps save the environment.”
Trolley pamphlets have been dispersed across downtown hotels and businesses to promote public transit for out-of-town guests.
Enhancements OTS has implemented this year include biannual bus detailings, updated signage for a more professional image, relocation of three bus-stop signs, monthly safety training for OTS staff and the installation of several new bus stop shelters and benches.
“Another enhancement has been the increase in employee job satisfaction. A big token of that was the pay increase that [city commissioners] approved, and it was greatly appreciated by my staff,” she said. “I also take the opportunity to engage the employees. By doing so, I keep them up to date on new hires, updates and milestones. I acknowledge a job well done and recognize birthdays which, all in all, has reduced turnover.”
A survey is currently being developed to give OTS more insight on the issue of after-hour transportation needs.
“I had a conversation with UniFirst and TTMA and both have said after-hour transportation is truly needed,” she said.
New shelters and benches for bus stops will be built at ten different locations around town, including St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter for Men, The Cigar Factory Mall, Ragu Drive, Kohls, Walmart, Sisson Manor Apartments, Old Hartford Hills Apartments, Bon Harbor Post Office and the space directly across from OMU.
New bus stop benches will be included at Friendship Drive, Garden Grace, Lincoln Plaza, Tamarack Road, J.R. Miller Boulevard, Home Depot, Frederica and Washington Streets and Casey’s General Store at J.R. Miller Boulevard and 7th Street.
“We have participated in Puzzle Pieces training regarding wheelchair restraints and ways to assist the agency to enhance ridership and client experience,” Canary said. “We have assisted local agencies with ADA compliant service OTS can provide.”
The total ridership in 2017 was 253,000 riders compared to 255,000 in 2018 and, for the first six months of 2019, OTS has seen 158,000 riders utilize public transportation.
“It could possibly reach 300,000, which is almost a 25 percent increase,” Canary said. “Last year, for Dump the Pump, we had about a thousand riders. This year, we had 1,700.”
This year, OTS will receive $1.6 million from the FTA and $95,000 worth of toll credits that will reduce the City’s transportation budget. A 5339 Formula Grant will give OTS another $150,000 in the form of a toll grant that, again, will mean less money out of the City’s budget, Canary said.
“That’s a total savings of $133,000 directly to the City,” she said.