A new $1 trolley fare drove a steep drop in ridership in January, but officials expect it to stabilize.
Ridership dropped about 36 percent, from about 22,400 in January 2014 to about 14,200 this January.
“It was less than expected for sure,” said Durango City Councilor Dean Brookie, a liaison to the Multi-Modal Advisory Board.
The decrease in ridership was projected to be about 45 percent to 50 percent, he said.
“The rates were sort of artificially enhanced previously by the number of homeless folks doing multiple rides with no destination,” Brookie said.
The new $1 fee to ride the trolley was introduced Jan. 5 because the service was running an annual deficit.
So far, the average fare revenue across the whole bus system has increased from about $300 a day to about $600, said Amber Blake, director of the Transportation and Sustainability Department.
The current revenue stream will not add up to the $259,000 the department was hoping to make, she said, but it is hard to make assumptions based on the first month of data.
Last year, the transportation department saw a steep drop in parking meter revenue that recovered later in the year.
“We saw a drop that very first month,” Blake said. Then revenue stabilized to historical levels, she said.
The transportation department introduced several new programs in January to provide service to students and low-income residents.
About 1,600 free annual passes were given to students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in Durango School District 9-R, she said.
All other students and teachers can get an annual transit pass for $30.
“We’ve had some great reports from faculty and staff and students in the schools that are just thrilled with the $30 annual pass,” she said.
The transportation department is planning to introduce a similar program for local charter schools.
Also in January, the city sold a greater number of passes to low-income residents, she said.
The City Council will review trolley ridership data and the specialized fare programs in March.