CIRTA unveils commuter-bus schedule for Fishers, Carmel

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Hamilton County commuters who ride the Indy Express Bus to and from downtown Indianapolis will have fewer departure options starting Sept. 2.

As IBJ reported last month, route operator Miller Transportation has been losing money on the $5-per-ride service, offered in partnership with the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority, and asked local governments in Fishers and Carmel for additional funding.

(Fishers Town Council approved a subsidy of up to $22,500 last week to keep the buses running for the rest of 2014. The Carmel City Council is still weighing a request for $30,000.)

Miller also will reduce expenses by using just one bus on each route, instead of two. That means one two departures and return trips each weekday, instead of the current three.

CIRTA polled existing Indy Express riders to set the new daily schedule, released Monday afternoon.

“We received an overwhelming response from many passionate riders,” Mobility Manager Patricia Castañeda said in a prepared statement. “We’ve tried to accommodate the greatest number of current riders, most of whom work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

In Fishers, that means departures from the park-and-ride lot at Eastern Star Church, 8850 E. 106th St., at 6 a.m. (earlier than the current 6:25 a.m. start time) and 7:10 a.m. Northbound buses will leave from Pennsylvania and Ohio streets downtown at 3:55 p.m. and 5:15 p.m.

The 7:55 a.m. trip from Fishers to downtown was cut, and return trips were tweaked to eliminate a trip between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The new Carmel routes will start even earlier, leaving the park-and-ride lot at Meijer, 1424 W. Carmel Drive, at 5:50 a.m. (instead of 6:25 a.m.) and 7:10 a.m. Return trips depart Penn/Ohio at 3:45 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.

An 8:10 a.m. Carmel departure was eliminated, along with a 4:35 p.m. trip from Penn/Ohio north.

IUPUI access will be available only on the 7:10 departures from each community; the northbound buses leave the campus at 3:30 p.m. (Carmel) and 3:40 p.m. (Fishers).

Commuters took about 35,000 trips on the Fishers route last year, ridership statistics show, and more than 28,500 trips to and from Carmel. Overall ridership has grown each year since 2011.

Organizers expect to see a drop in use due to the service reductions, but they’re not sure how big it will be. The public money is intended to cover any shortfalls that result. The more trips riders take, the fewer subsidies the service would need.

Fishers officials made it clear they don’t intend to underwrite the bus service indefinitely, urging CIRTA and Miller to explore other more-permanent funding options.

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