ECAT had 11 percent increase in ridership in 2012

Press Release: Representatives from the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization (FL-AL TPO) are pleased to announce substantial gains in ridership for both fixed route and demand response systems in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Year-end 2012 ridership numbers demonstrate the following increases as compared to 2011:

· Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) reported 1,530,053 total rides – an 11 percent increase from 2011.
· Pensacola Bay Transportation reported a three percent increase in rides in Escambia County and nearly 21 percent increase in Santa Rosa County. Pensacola Bay Transportation is the local demand response operator responsible for ensuring the availability of cost-effective and quality services for the transportation disadvantaged.

Comparatively, national ridership increases for fixed-route systems as noted by the America Public Transportation Association, only reflect a 1.8 percent increase.

“These strong ridership numbers are a true testament to the growing demand for public transportation services in our local communities,” said Vikki Garrett, staff to the FL-AL TPO and a West Florida Regional Planning Council planner. “As we move into 2013, our teams will continue working to ensure that this demand is met with quality services for residents in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.”

Ridership increases come during a year when ECAT announced new management. As of April 2012, First Transit took the driver’s seat and has been working to enhance operations and the customer experience.

“Our top priority at First Transit is to guarantee that all have access and mobility options. As such, initial efforts have been focused on connecting riders to the places they need to go,” said Mary Lou Franzoni, General Manager for ECAT. “As we move into a new year, we are working to get the community more involved through public outreach efforts. We want to hear both current and potential rider needs and desires for transportation here locally.”

In addition to significant ridership gains, representatives from the FL-AL TPO announced that the Escambia and Santa Rosa communities have been awarded two transportation grants, which will help fund system-wide enhancements: 1) The State of Good Repair grant and 2) Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative. Both will increase overall efficiency and enhance riders’ experiences.

The State of Good Repair grant, garnered by the Escambia County Board of Commissioners with the help of the West Florida Regional Planning Council, will help upgrade buses with safety devices and provide funding for software used in route planning. The Veterans Initiative grant will allow for upgrades to help veterans in Santa Rosa County more easily access services at the Veterans’ Affairs clinic located in Escambia County.

“We commend the local transportation agencies on meeting the increased demand over the past twelve months while preparing for an exciting year ahead,” said Lisa Bacot, executive director for the Florida Public Transportation Association. “Between execution of these grants and support from the local community through the recent gas tax approval, this community is primed to be one of Florida’s leaders in this industry.”