AppalCART ridership increases 18 percent

Students board the Purple Route in Raley circle. Ridership increased by approximately 10,000 passengers. Aneisy Cardo | The Appalachian

Joshua Farmer

Students board the Purple Route in Raley circle. Ridership increased by approximately 10,000 passengers.  Aneisy Cardo | The Appalachian
AppalCART, Watauga County’s public transportation system, has seen an 18 percent increase in ridership on buses since last year, said Chris Turner, AppalCART transportation director.

The system announced having recorded 139,163 passenger trips since January 2012. Following the addition of the Silver Route and adding a second bus to the Purple Route, passenger ridership increased by approximately 10,000 passengers, Turner said.

“I think last year was our best year ever, and it was probably the year before that was the previous best year ever, so I think we’ve been on a roll ridership-wise,” Turner said.

And more riders mean more funding to accommodate for the extra costs.

“When we plan route expansions, we also try to expand the maintenance budget,” Turner said. “The cost of service expansion is planned for in the annual grant application we make to the N.C. Public Transportation Division of NCDOT.”

The bulk of funding for the AppalCART is federal grant money that comes from the state and local partners, such as the university, town and county.

“The way it works is every fall I make a presentation to the fee committee, the committee that everybody who wants a fee goes before that committee, and makes their proposal,” said Barry Sauls, director of ASU Traffic and Parking Department.

The transportation fee every student pays in their tuition is to fund the ASU Traffic and Parking Department’s contribution to AppalCART and the Safe Ride program, Sauls said.

Sauls said the fee has increased $30 since 2009.

“We also do a five-year plan where we try to include possible expansions of service,” Turner said. “These expansions are budgeted for in the plan.”

Jim Harrison, AppalCART database manager, said growth is expected to continue in the coming years and is expected to have positive outcomes for both AppalCART employees and passengers.

Sauls said one reason for this trend to continue is that the university has committed to sustainability.

“One of the real cornerstones of that from the transportation perspective is really beefing up the transportation system so that we don’t get into a situation where more students, more employees want to drive an automobile to campus.”

Story: HANNAH MAGILL, Intern News Reporter

Photo: ANEISY CARDO, Staff Photographer