By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Calaveras County's public transit system says it is picking up more riders.
In September, Calaveras Transit reported providing about 163 one-way bus trips per day, an increase of 41.7 percent from the average 115 daily trips in September 2002.
That's according to a report from the Calaveras Council of Governments, the agency that oversees the transit system.
In September of 2002, 2,490 one-way trips were provided. This September, the number went up to 3,570, the report said.
Increased ridership means more fare revenue.
So far this fiscal year, Calaveras Transit reports recovering 12.88 percent of its expenses through farebox revenue, advertising and special services that's 2.88 percent above the minimum required for receiving state and federal funds that pay most transit costs.
But Calaveras County Supervisor Victoria Erickson, who last year joined a 3-2 board majority in giving a new operator one year to turn the under-ridden system around has her doubts.
"I still follow empty buses around the county," Erickson said. "If there are 1,000 more riders, I don't know where they are."
Calaveras Transit has been operating since 1999. Its 10 buses stop in most county towns, except for Copperopolis and towns beyond West Point, such as Rail Road Flat and Wilseyville. The system also has routes to Jackson, Lodi and Columbia College.
Many riders bought tickets during the summer and are using them now, Calaveras Council of Governments Transportation Planner Daniel Wayne said.
Also, this is the first year the county has rented space on its buses for advertising.
The strategy has paid off, bringing $1,601 to the transit system since the start of the fiscal year, without any added expenses.
Wayne said more changes are in store for the transit system to further raise its numbers.
"We won't know what the changes are going to be until we're finished with the public-participation process and have a final copy of the traffic assessment study," Wayne said.
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