Capital District Transportation Authority ridership in the past 12 months was the highest it’s been in nearly three decades, officials reported Wednesday.
Carm Basile, the authority’s chief executive officer, reported ridership increased to more than 15.6 million between April 2012 and March 2013, CDTA’s fiscal year. That was an increase of more than 675,000 from the previous fiscal year and the most since 16.3 million riders boarded CDTA buses between April 1984 and March 1985.
The 5.1 percent increase in riders wasn’t as great as recorded the previous year, when CDTA saw an 8 percent increase. Still, the authority’s growth in riders was significant during a time when there was no external factor driving the figures.
“It used to be ridership increased because fuel prices went up or some sort of external event,” Basile said during CDTA’s monthly board meeting Wednesday. “Well, that didn’t happen this year. Ridership increased because of all the good things we’ve been able to get done.”
For instance, the authority was able to garner more riders through its universal access program, which allows students from participating colleges and universities to use their school identification cards to board CDTA buses. The academic institutions each contract with CDTA, meaning students use the service at no cost.
CDTA now estimates roughly 20 percent of its riders fall under the universal access program, and that’s likely to grow as the program expands. Already, nine area colleges use the program. In August, the authority also entered an agreement with ShopRite, which has four locations in the Capital Region.
“Our goal is to move into this region with this model,” said Margo Janack, a spokeswoman for CDTA.
The increase in ridership also helped drive a 6 percent increase in revenue over the previous fiscal year. The additional revenue has helped keep the authority in the black, a marked change from 2012, when CDTA was faced with closing a projected $10 million budget gap.
This year’s budget was balanced more easily, partly because of mortgage recording tax revenue from the four counties that was about 41 percent higher than originally anticipated.
CDTA’s board also nominated a new chairman to replace the outgoing Denise Figueroa, who served three years in the post. Dave Stackrow, who represents Rensselaer County on the board and served as chairman until 2010, was appointed as Figueroa’s successor; Georgeanna Lussier of Saratoga County was designated as vice-chair.
“We are a model of success, and we need to build on that,” Stackrow told the board.