The RTC Ride, Rapid and Intercity transportation systems will be giving free rides today for passengers heading to vote or looking to try out the public transportation system. Michael Moreno, public information officer for the RTC, said the program is designed to show people the benefits of using public transportation.
“A lot of people don’t have transportation to get to the polls and we are offering people free rides because right now gas is so expensive,” Moreno said. “It saves people gas money, wear and tear on their vehicles and it also saves the environment and preserves the quality of life here by reducing congestion.”
Moreno said this is the first time free rides have been given on Election Day, but not the first time the RTC has offered the public a chance to try its service for free. In June the RTC participated in Dump the Pump Day offering free transit and saw about 33,000 people riding RTC buses, which Moreno said was a record for ridership in a single day. In offering free transit, Moreno said a boost of more than 10,000 people used the RTC services.
“We want people to really look at public transportation because it is a great benefit for our community. It does great things for us and it does help out your pocketbook,” Moreno said adding that people who try public transportation on free days are often surprised. “What people will probably be most surprised by is public transportation is safe, convenient, and gives people the chance to not worry about spending money on gas or parking hassles.”
Moreno said the RTC is continually looking for ways to inform the community of its services, which may lead to more free riding days in the future. He said these events help raise awareness for the public, which ultimately shows in the number of riders using the system.
The Sparks Centennial Plaza, which opened on Victorian Avenue in 2008, has not experienced the amount of ridership the RTC projected, according to Moreno. He said the amount of passengers coming through the Centennial Plaza will likely increase as the economy continues to turn.
“With the economic recession we have experienced, the Sparks Centennial Plaza is not seeing the growth that we had projected, but as the economy turns around we anticipate that we see more growth in the Sparks area,” he said. “Once people give it a try they will understand what it is all about. People are not going to ride the bus every day, but they might ride it a couple times a month or a week. The economics of riding a bus is big for an individual.”
Moreno said the public transportation system is an intricate part of the local economy. He said some people don’t realize how often people rely on it, which gives the RTC reason to hold free transit days.
“Public transportation supports economic development and it supports jobs. A lot of people rely on the bus system to get to and from work. Over 50 percent of our rides on RTC Ride are for people going to and from work,” he said. “The relationship between economic development and public transportation is a significant one and it is one we really want to bring focus to in the community.”