Eight percent fewer people have been riding Capital District Transportation Authority buses since the basic bus fare went up 50 cents on April 1, according to authority officials.
But the drop in ridership — about 300,000 boardings in the first quarter of CDTA’s fiscal year — is not just because of higher fares, officials said.
“I think there’s a number of factors,” said Ray Melleady, CDTA’s executive director.
CDTA officials blamed the drop also on route reductions and probably because gasoline is much cheaper than it was a year ago when the transit agency had near-record ridership, officials said.
More route consolidations and reductions will be coming in the next few months as the agency continues to struggle to balance revenue and operating expenses.
Both the increase in the basic fare from $1 to $1.50 and the route reductions were part of an effort to close what was projected at the time to be a $9 million funding gap for the agency, which provides bus service in Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany and Rensselaer counties.
Last year, with gas prices high, CDTA was seeing near-record ridership levels with more than 15 million boardings for the year.
Some loss in ridership was expected because of the changes made in April. Revenue from ridership is only about 2 percent below budget projections, officials said.
According to information provided at Wednesday’s meeting of the CDTA board at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station, passenger boardings for the months of April, May and June were 3.4 million, a drop from 3.7 million a year ago.
“In many ways, that’s reflective of the fare increase,” Melleady said.
But elimination or consolidation of some less used bus routes has also reduced the number of people getting on the bus, he said. And another round of service eliminations and bus-stop closings is scheduled to take place in August and September as the agency tries to eliminate a total of 35,000 service hours for the year.
The next round of cuts is still being finalized and not ready to be announced, said Margo Janack, the CDTA spokeswoman.
CDTA board members said the price of gasoline being about $2 a gallon lower than it was a year ago also contributes to the loss of riders since it means people may be less concerned about the cost of driving their personal vehicles.
CDTA staff members are currently looking at details of the ridership changes to determine where they are occurring, what fares are most impacted and what the contributing factors are, Melleady said. That report is expected at the Aug. 26 CDTA board meeting.
“We will drill down and see where the losses are and what can be done,” Melleady said.