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I-Team Waste Watch: Kalamazoo Buses

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013 |
I-Team Waste Watch: Kalamazoo Buses story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Two months ago, the Newschannel 3 I-Team took a close look at evening bus service in Grand Rapids.

Last year, taxpayers in the metro Grand Rapids area decided to pay $1 million annually for more frequent evening bus service and longer night bus service.

After The Rapid implemented those improvements, the I-Team found that nearly 40% of the city buses were running with less than 3 people on board, and that some were empty.

Since that investigation aired, we've turned our attention to the Kalamazoo bus system, to find out if Kalamazoo taxpayers were getting the most for their money.

Over the last six months, the I-Team has been on many buses and the story remains the same--underperformance at night in the eyes of many, including transit executives.

While one executive we talked to at Metro Transit admitted that everyone knows fewer people ride at night, the bottom line is that taxpayers are paying the same price, day or night.

In Kalamazoo, however, it was a mixed bag. Some lines were packed, but at other times, the I-Team had another private ride.

However, when the I-Team tried to dig deeper, we met a surprising discovery--for the last 14 years, there is no data.

In 1998, voters approved a measure to pay half their transit tax bill to fund evening hour service, but in that time, Metro Transit leaders never check to see how the service was doing.

The Metro Transit representative we spoke to said that there are a number of performance indicators that anyone can look at.

One such indicator is the monthly report from the electronic farebox--as the farebox does not break down hour-by-hour reports of ridership.

Unlike Grand Rapids, there is no organized group in Kalamazoo opposed to the transit system, but there are those who have expressed frustration over perceived waste.

As it turns out, Metro Transit will be asking for a millage renewal in November, and leaders are promising that changes will be made--such as a new passenger counting system that we're told will be in place this fall, in advance of the election.

Although there were no hard numbers to analyze, the Transit Director thought 10-15% of Metro Transit's total ridership is in the evening hours.
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