ELYRIA — Whether the Lorain County Transit bus routes into downtown Cleveland survive depends on whether the county can increase the number of riders and what impact private bus junkets departing out of Lorain and Avon to Horseshoe Casino have on the county’s bus routes.
County Administrator Jim Cordes said Wednesday that while ridership has increased since the county launched its bus routes Sept. 10, it’s still not a break-even proposition for cash-strapped Transit.
“We’re building ridership, but it’s slow,” he said.
According to figures provided by the county, between Sept. 10 and Oct. 10, there were 656 riders on the routes, which depart from the Lorain County Board of Elections in Sheffield Township and the Lorain County Transportation Center in Elyria.
County officials have said they need about 12 riders per bus to break even on the runs, but during that time period only four runs had 12 or more riders, according to the county figures.
It costs $3.65 for a one-way ticket on the Transit buses or $7.25 for an all-day pass.
Cordes said the county needs to tweak the departure times and possibly even add a bus to the routes to improve ridership numbers. Part of the problem, he said, is it takes about two hours roundtrip to make a run. Ridership might improve, he said, if the buses could turn around quicker.
Commissioner Lori Kokoski said the county could add a bus to speed up the routes, but Commissioner Tom Williams pointed out that doing so would increase the cost.
The commissioners had committed to spending between $30,000 and $50,000 on a six-month trial run of the Cleveland route.
The commissioners have said that if the pilot program doesn’t generate enough revenue, they may shut it down before the six-month trial period is over.
The county also is selling advertising on the buses, which officials hope will defray costs.
The county has faced criticism for running buses into Cleveland rather than bulking up the limited routes within Lorain County. Lorain County Transit has felt the commissioners’ budget ax in recent years as the county has struggled with reduced revenue.
“We don’t fund Transit properly, so it’s hard to build up ridership,” Commissioner Ted Kalo said.
The county also is now facing competition from Lakefront Lines, which is offering $10 rides from All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon and the Super Kmart in Lorain to the downtown casino.
The ticket gives gamblers four hours in the casino and $15 worth of slots in addition to the ride, which runs Mondays through Fridays. According to the company’s website, it will expand to seven days a week beginning Nov. 17.
Cordes said it’s too early to tell what impact the private buses will have, but he expects they will cut into county ridership.
“It would be better if the casino had worked with local communities,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.