ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Although their ridership figures vary significantly due to differences in how they’re calculated, officials from Robins Air Force Base and the Macon Transit Authority agree their partnership on a shuttle system is working well.
Leaders of the transit authority and Robins held a news conference at the base Wednesday to tout the progress of Buses into Robins Daily, or BiRD, which began in November 2010.
Robins counts the number of workers who enter the base each day on the bus line, which carries riders from the Macon Centreplex to the base, with other stops along the way. In December that was 856 riders, down from a high of more than 1,000 in November, but base officials credit the drop-off to the holiday season and expect it will rise back over 1,000 in January.
The Macon Transit Authority counts rides, which means one person riding to the base and back to Macon would count as two rides. But the buses also make several other stops along the route, and many of the riders don’t work at Robins, said Rick Jones, chief executive officer of the transit authority.
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He said the transit authority calculated about 4,000 rides for BiRD in December. The transit authority doesn’t distinguish the Robins riders from other riders on the line in counting rides. Going by the Robins figure, which would be doubled under the Macon Transit Authority’s calculation, it would mean more than half of those riding the BiRD are not Robins workers.
Regardless of how they calculate the ridership, both Jones and John Pugh, 78th Mission Support Group deputy director, said they are pleased with the progress of BiRD. It was started as an effort to reduce traffic flow and parking problems at Robins.
While the base has continuously encouraged workers to take the bus, Jones credited the growth to riders telling others about it.
“They are the voices that are very positive and spread the word,” he said. “We want to encourage people that they do have options.”
The Robins ridership is largely spurred by the Transportation Incentive Program, a federal initiative that fully reimburses the $6 round-trip cost for Robins employees.
Pugh said the base is working with community leaders to explore more options for a regional approach to reducing traffic flow in and around the base. The base is participating in a study to determine the feasibility of a mass transit system in Houston and Peach counties.
The base also promotes carpooling through the Clean Air Campaign and van-pooling, and participation in both of those has been trending upward. Pugh said he expects participation in mass transit to continue with gas prices expected to rise.
Robins employees who want to learn more about mass transit initiatives can go to the base website, www.robins.af.mil, and click on the transportation link.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.