MTA officials pleased with first 12 months of downtown circulator

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 10:05pm

One year after its inception, the Music City Circuit is seeing very respectable ridership, according to Metro Transit Authority officials.

The free downtown circulator, which offers Blue, Green and Purple lines, launched March 29, 2010, to much fanfare and has met expectations for its first 12 months of operation, according to Patricia Harris-Morehead, MTA director of communications.

This past March, MCC enjoyed its best single-month ridership to date, with 20,510 passengers (based on preliminary numbers). The mark eclipsed the previous single-month record of 19,737 passenger trips, set in July 2010. March 2011 also represented the first time the three-line circulator has topped 20,000 passenger trips in a single month.

For the 12-month period spanning April 2010 to March 2011, ridership was 198,322, an average of 16,527 riders per month. Harris-Morehead said the number likely would have been higher if it were not for last May’s historic flood, which negatively affected bus services.

“Despite the fact that we did not set a specific goal, we are pleased with the ridership numbers this first 12-month period,” Harris-Morehead said. “We usually give a new route at least a year to prove itself, and obviously, the Music City Circuit has been a success.”

Harris-Morehead said the Blue line is the most used of the three lines. And she noted that in reviewing the statistics, the summer months had greater ridership then the winter months.

A comparison of the Music City Circuit to circulators in other cities is not necessarily apples to apples.

For example, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority’s Downtown Area Runabout Transit trolley-replica buses charge 50 cents a ride and circulate through both Birmingham’s central business district and Southside — the latter the rough equivalent of Nashville’s Midtown.

The Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority provides free electric shuttle bus service, but the buses cover a modest geographic range.

According to CARTA statistics, electric bus ridership in April 1992, the first month of service, was about 9,740 riders (compared with MCC’s approximately 18,023 for its first full month, April 2010). By 2010, CARTA’s electric buses accommodated about 1 million passengers annually, an average of about 83,300 riders per month.

Harris-Morehead said MTA officials have talked with colleagues in other cities that operate free downtown circulators.

“They have told us we should be extremely proud of these ridership numbers,” she said. 

Harris-Morehead said credit for the MCC's numbers can be partly attributed to efforts from Transit Now Nashville, the Nashville Downtown Partnership and the Regional Commuters Association (the riders group for the Music City Star).  

3 Comments on this post:

By: HokeyPokey on 4/14/11 at 6:14

In other news: Subcommittee OKs bill allowing bus drivers to be armed downtown


By: slacker on 4/15/11 at 6:02

Free bus rides.. brilliant. What a novel idea.
Add free snacks and valet service, and then watch it take off.

By: susanheard on 4/15/11 at 9:58

Hey! you should try it! It's a great way to avoid parking hassles and expense downtown, and also a pleasant, inexpensive way to show out-of-towners around. You can get from downtown to the Farmers Market or restaurants in Germantown quickly and efficiently or all the way out to the old Howard School or to the Gulch. The buses are clean and comfortable, the drivers friendly, and the schedule runs on time. Experiencing public transportation this way may encourage Nashvillians to get out of their cars and relieve traffic congestion or to come downtown and enjoy the interesting architecture and many attractions. A day I spent recently exploring downtown, the Capitol, and Bi-Centennial Mall was enhanced by the availability of this wonderful amenity. I recommend it!