By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A small crowd gathered at city hall to hear the latest on changes to Enid’s bus system Wednesday morning, the first of two public meetings on the issue.
Enid Public Transit Authority General Manager James Neal told the guests that on July 22, the system will undergo its second major operational shift this year.
On that day, anyone needing a ride still will have have to call ahead, but the bus or van will pick them up at their own location.
The most recent policy forced riders to get to a bus station first.
Fares also will increase to $2 for each ride.
“I will acknowledge up front, some of the changes I’m going to discuss will make things more difficult for some of our riders,” Neal said. “What we’ve had to do is look at ways to make the system more efficient, more effective and more feasible for totality of our ridership.”
The longer in advance a rider can schedule a pickup, the better.
“If you know three days in advance that you’re going to be going somewhere, go ahead and schedule that ride,” he said.
EPTA also will cut back on its hours — an effort to drastically reduce their expenditures. Now, the buses will only run until 7 p.m.
“If we try to push out to that 11 p.m. time frame, we’re simply spreading ourselves too thin. It’s already a stretch,” Neal said. “I’m not trying to gloss that over. That’s a reduction in service to those people who run later. But we’ve had to focus on what we can do to improve the service for the totality of our ridership.”
The problems arose in 2008, when the city-operated bus system abandoned essentially what was a curb-to-curb taxi service in favor three fixed routes. Ridership plummeted.
“In theory, it should have increased our ridership and cut our costs. That theory ended up not being reality,” Neal said.
And, with the lack of riders, interest by grant-holders diminished. In the past few years, he told the small crowd, grant revenue to the transit agency has decreased by 30 percent.
One citizen who attended the meeting asked whether the Enid City Commission could bail out the bus system, which will likely still run a deficit this year.
Neal replied that his mandate since he started the job in April has been to make the system efficient, stem the bleeding and make the tough decisions about how to move forward.
“Like anything, before you invest in something, you want to make sure it’s being run as efficiently as possible,” he said.