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KAT says Town’s share $75k

Knoxville Area Transit manager Cindy McGinnis requested $75,000 from the town of Farragut to fund the Farragut Express at Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Thursday, April 23.

“We’ve seen a pretty significant decrease in the ridership in recent months … but there is a very dedicated core,” McGinnis said of the Farragut Express, which makes six runs daily to and from the park and ride lot off Campbell Station Road and downtown Knoxville.

McGinnis estimated the Farragut Express costs $78,717 to operate each year.

“This is based on annual hours of service,” McGinnis said.

According to McGinnis’ statistics, KAT’s budget is based on revenues from three main sources: the City of Knoxville provides 46 percent, TDOT and FTA grants provide 29 percent and passenger fares and subsidies (similar to those from the Town) provide 25 percent.

“We’re basically a department of the City of Knoxville,” McGinnis said.

KAT’s current passenger fare for Express routes is $2 a trip, or a 20-ride express pass for $30.

McGinnis also said the routes would be changing as KAT moves its operations to a transit center downtown. Because of the coming changes, she said KAT was not marketing its bus routes “to the extent that we might normally.”

“Word of mouth is really good marketing in this area though,” McGinnis said, noting that the lower gas prices were leading to fewer passengers.

There are two additional Express routes in Knox County: one to and from Halls and downtown, and another to and from Cedar Bluff and downtown. McGinnis said KAT requested $30,000 from Knox County for the Halls Express, which “is a much smaller, shorter route.”

Alderman John Williams advised McGinnis also to ask the County to partially fund the Farragut Express. Knox County currently contributes no money for any specific bus routes, but reimburses KAT for allowing senior citizens to ride for free.

Alderman Jeff Elliott asked McGinnis how large the “core” ridership of the Farragut Express was.

She said in March 2009, 169 people rode the Halls Express; 1,171 rode the Farragut Express.

Williams noted that, statistically, the route did not have a high average ridership per bus run.

“If I’ve done my math correctly, you run six routes with a capacity of about 35 people per route … there’s about 4,000 seats per month, and your peak ridership on this route, back in September 2008, was about 2,500.

“It looks like you’ve never gotten above about 60 percent capacity, even at peak,” Williams said.

“Now you’re down to some 30 percent, now that gas prices have gone down … clearly the utilization of the service has decreased,” he added.

Williams also told McGinnis he estimated a large number of Farragut Express riders were not Town residents.

“That’s a very good point … [but] those riders coming in and parking in your parking lots are shopping in your grocery stores and making trips around Farragut and helping your economy,” McGinnis said.

No action was taken on the request; the Board stated it would consider it during coming months’ budget talks.

“I do hope for a favorable reply at some point … I hope things work out so we can continue our services,” McGinnis said.

Last year, KAT requested $100,000 from the Town; it received $20,000.


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