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CATS Ridership Drops

Ridership on buses, shuttles and light rail declined by more than one and a half million people last year. The biggest drop came on express bus routes most popular with commuters. As far as the Charlotte Area Transit System is concerned, it's still 2008. That was just before the system hit its peak ridership of 26 million people. And just before the recession took hold in Charlotte. Any ground the transit system gained during that time was lost as people lost their jobs, says CATS Marketing Director Olaf Kinard. "People didn't leave because they were complaining about the service or we weren't performing as they expected," says Kinard. "The reason they left is because they didn't have a job." In the last 12 months, ridership on express routes for commuters dropped 15 to 20 percent on average. Declines on local bus routes and LYNX were less dramatic, so overall CATS ridership fell six and a half percent for the year. The previous year it was up 12 percent. But Kinard says CATS officials are not alarmed by the drop. They saw it coming and prepared by adjusting operating expenses to "mirror our revenue streams." Kinard says CATS cut more than $20 million in expenses so that, like ridership, the system's operating budget has also shrunk to 2008 levels. Bus and LYNX fares jumped 25 cents last month, so Kinard says that should prevent the need to trim routes, while we wait for the economy to improve.