City Manager John Bennett told members of the transit committee Tuesday that the Rome Board of Education is investigating the possibility of contracting for its own school bus service instead of using the city’s tripper line.
The city gets about $1.1 million a year from the school system, which does not cover all the costs. Atlanta, Albany and Columbus use their city’s transit system, but most independent school systems run their own.
Public Services Director Kirk Milam said he has provided the school system with ridership and routing information so it can solicit requests for proposals.
However, Bennett said a city school board survey shows “it’s eye-opening what the other systems are spending.” Dalton, for example, dedicates about $3 million a year for its school buses.
“Between the Board of Education and the city, we’re spending less than $2 million,” he said. “So the idea that the school system can do better by contracting it out is probably wishful thinking.”
With nearly 760,000 student trips in 2008, the school system has accounted for 78 percent of the transit system’s ridership, Milam said — and there’s been a 6.4-percent increase so far in the 2009 school year.
Ridership rising across the board
Milam said ridership on the main line service has increased 12 percent, by nearly 183,000 fare trips, from 2007 to 2008.
Senior citizens made up 12.5 percent of the riders; disabled fares accounted for 19.5 percent; and 14 percent rode so regularly they purchased discounted fare cards.
The city also provided 23,400 paratransit door-to-door rides for eligible handicapped residents.
Commissioner Buzz Wachsteter asked staffers to survey main line riders to see if they would pay for the option of door-to-door service.
“We need to look,” he said. “The more riders we can accommodate, I think that aspect of transit will come closer to paying for itself.”
The offer, however, is unlikely to draw much interest, Milam said. Disabled riders get subsidized fares through federal or state agencies, but others would have to pay about $10 a trip.
“A cab might be cheaper, and they won’t have to call 24 hours in advance,” Milam said.