The new Red Rabbit Route 7 started up more than a month ago, and numbers show that ridership is lagging.
Hall Area Transit began tracking preliminary numbers for the route this week once Lanier Technical College students started back to class. During this time, the route provided about 100 trips.
“Students may still have parking options at Lanier Tech and Gainesville State College, but I think those options are slowly closing up,” said Phillippa Moss, Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center director. “It’s still a slow start for students accessing the park and ride lot, but I hope it will pick up. Our goal is to facilitate the two colleges in getting students from that lot to the college campuses.”
The ultimate goal is to support 100 riders per day, Moss said.
“I aim high, and we’re still working toward that high goal,” she said. “What we find systemwide is that during bad weather, ridership slows down, which happened to Route 7 on Monday and Tuesday, and we saw a 25 percent decline overall in the system.”
The route features stops at GSC, Lanier Tech, Walmart, Goodwill, Blackshear Place Library and the Park & Ride lot on Thurman Tanner Parkway. It started Aug. 16 when Gainesville State classes began. Students only need to show their student ID cards to hop on board and the ride is free.
“It’s starting off slower than I had hoped, so we’ll be watching it closer and staying in contact with the colleges,” Moss said. “I have heard that interaction with the drivers is very positive. Students are friendly and ask a lot of questions. The drivers have had a good experience.”
Route 7 is a small loop with the shortest Red Rabbit time, just 20 minutes.
The expansion is part of a five-year plan drafted for Hall Area Transit in May 2008. A consultant suggested they target access to colleges specifically.
On Sept. 1, Route 2 shifted to give better access to Brenau University and shopping areas such as the downtown square and Lakeshore Mall.
On Sept. 13, Route 5 changed from a 60-minute service to a 30-minute service. It’s the most popular Red Rabbit route that hits businesses, government buildings and community organizations along Jesse Jewell Parkway from Memorial Park to Main Street.
Officials at the colleges are excited about the expansion for students, even though it is catching on slowly.
“Enrollment at the college continues to increase. This semester, prior to this week, our students were able to park in a parking lot at Lanier Technical College across the street from our campus,” said Tom Walter, Gainesville State’s vice president for student development and enrollment management and the college’s representative on the Hall Area Transit Advisory Board.
“Now that LTC is back in session, this is no longer available. However, our students who cannot find parking on our campus can park in the Park and Ride lot near our campus and ride the Red Rabbit, which will drop them off closer to their class than much of the parking on campus,” he said. “We have definitely seen an increase in ridership, especially this week. We expect to see that increase continue as more students discover the convenience of this new service.”