Fishers extends subsidy for commuter bus service

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The soon-to-be-city of Fishers has promised to help keep the Indy Express commuter bus rolling until the end of April—and maybe longer, depending on ridership early next year.

Mayor-Elect Scott Fadness told the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority that Fishers will continue to subsidize the service through January before making a decision on future funding.

And even if officials ultimately pull the plug on the route between Fishers and downtown Indianapolis, Fadness said riders would be given at least 90 days’ notice before the service would end.

CIRTA notified Carmel commuters Dec. 1 that their bus service would end Dec. 19 despite that city’s pledge of $30,000 in stopgap funding. Ridership on the Carmel route plunged after budget cuts eliminated one of two buses providing the service, and traffic woes made it impossible to offer two morning departures.

With two buses running each route, commuters could choose from three departure times.

The Fishers route still has two early options: 5:55 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. This fall, it averaged about 18 people on the first departure and 40 on the second.

Since officials expected ridership to drop as a result of the service changes, they enlisted financial support from local governments to augment the $5-per-ride fare.

Fishers Town Council agreed to cover up to $22,500 of operator Miller Transportation’s losses in the last four months of 2014. As of Nov. 30, the tab was less than $2,500.

Fadness, who is slated to be sworn in as Fishers’ first mayor on Dec. 22, agreed to continue the subsidy for the short-term. He told IBJ the funding will come from his administrative budget.

“Ridership continues to be critically important,” CIRTA Mobility Manager Patricia Castaneda wrote in a Dec. 11 letter to Fishers bus passengers. “The greater number of riders, the more income from fares and the more ‘bang for the buck’ Fishers gets.”

The cost of renting the park-and-ride lot (and keeping it plowed in the winter) also will be factored into the decision on whether to continue the route, she said, so organizers are “investigating options” to reduce those expenses.

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