Trolley service to the Island — lower Swanson Avenue, South Lake Havasu Avenue and the Ross Center — will be cut beginning Oct. 1 because of significant ridership reduction compared to 2011, city officials recently announced.
Despite the recent announcement, Operations Department Director Gary Parsons said he and city leadership made the decision in July because of the staggering ridership loss.
Lower McCulloch Boulevard and the “Main Street” area will still be served by the Blue and Red routes. New route brochures are expected to be available by the end of the month.
“We were holding our own through February,” Parsons said. But March, April, May and June featured brutal declines in ridership, he added.
Between the beginning of March and the end of August, ridership of the city’s trolley system dropped by 9,651 rides, Parsons said. The declines came after the city experienced a six percent reduction in rides after a July 2011 service cut and labor reduction.
“We knew we would lose ridership at that time,” Parsons said referring to last year’s cut. But this year’s ridership fall was a surprise, he added.
“We can’t make a knee-jerk decision based on one month, but four months to the end of June is a trend,” Parsons said. It is a bad trend he said and while July and August ridership numbers weren’t as bad as the previous months, they signified reductions from the previous year as well.
Parsons said the notations about the route’s closure are posted at the specific stops and he’s heard from individuals and groups that are upset. But the numbers warranted a change, he said.
“We gave it our best shot, but we have to be conservative” Parsons said.
It’s difficult to pinpoint any specific reason why there was a significant ridership drop, but Parsons said he thought that more young people moving back to urban areas played a part, along with a continued sluggish economy.
The trolley system is not a moneymaking venture by any stretch.
The federal government subsidizes Lake Havasu City’s transit system paying for about $.65 of every $1 in the city’s transit program, Parsons said. The city ends up paying $540,000 out of its own pocket for the transit program, he added.
State lottery money used to help fund the city’s transit program up to $225,000 until the state decided to take those monies away in 2009 and sweep them into the general fund, Parsons said.
Despite the glum announcement, those who are interested in catching a trolley ride up to the Shops at Lake Havasu have two more hours they can do that – 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 1.
More people had been requesting the added hours of service to the mall so the city added hours, restoring the service to the mall closer to what it previously had been, Parsons said.
For more information on the transit cutbacks, contact the city’s transit division at 453-7600.
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