CATA Redi-Ride Faces Drop In Ridership Due To COVID-19
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP - The Meridian Township Transportation Commission held their regular meeting via Zoom on Thursday, June 18th. One of the topic of discussions was CATA COVID-19 response and the affects of the pandemic on the Redi-Ride service.
Andrew Brieschke, Deputy CEO with CATA gave an overview of CATA’s plan since suspending all fixed route and Paratransit service on March 23rd. With the ongoing need for transportation, CATA reinstated the Redi-Ride system for on-demand travel on May 4th. This was reserved for traveling to the grocery store, work related meetings or health related reasons.
“We essentially turned off all regular service so that took us from a system of fifty-five to sixty thousand rides per day (MSU still in session) to an on-demand type service and this was for bare-bones, essential trips only and we were doing about twelve hundred to sixteen hundred rides per day,” said Brieschke.
CATA established an on-demand hotline and hired temporary employees to keep this system running.
“We had a volunteer workforce, we were a little shy on operators and on certain days we were not always able to sustain small bus service,” said Brieschke.
Due to complaints about ride availability or difficulty getting through to the hotline service center, Transdev, which is CATA’s contractor, decided to temporarily run Red-Ride to fill the gaps in transportation.
“Transdev ran the Redi-Ride in Meridian from May 11th to May 23rd and then CATA resumed on the 26th. Thus far, we have an operation where people are back at their contractual wages, manpower is not an issue and people are coming to work who feel safe to do so,” said Briescke.
The data shows a lower number of riders for Redi-Ride for this spring compared to last spring. While noting that a main source of ridership is from students of Michigan State University, a decline in numbers in the spring is expected. However, in addition to the pandemic, ridership went down to as low as 800 rides compared to last March (while operating off 18 service days).
Without exact calculations, Brieschke guessed that operations for June are operating from about 40% ridership for June compared to last year.
Briescke also said that CATA has taken this time to concentrate on how best to utilize technology in regard to their transit services, such as touch-less card readers or QR codes for phones.
“I will say one big motivator that has come from this COVID-19 crisis is the big push for touch-less fare payment system-wide. I think the touch-less fare pay is going to go a long way for the entire system to encourage people to ride and not have to worry about the fare box,” said Briescke.
CATA is working hard to provide that new normal for riders as they implement new safety precautions and advanced technology for the health and safety of all future riders.