CARTA is down over 100,000 riders for the fiscal year (July to March), board members were told on Thursday. The decline is from 2,282,686 to 2,182,170 counting transit, the free electric shuttle, Care-a-Van and the Incline Railway.
Transit ridership has dropped from 1,331,435 to 1,228,397.
Shuttle ridership is down from 599,261 to 582,049.
The Incline and Care-a-Van are up for the fiscal year.
Lisa Maragnano said there is a nationwide trend showing a drop in public transit use, but the decline is sharper here. She said nationally the drop is 3-4 percent, but it is 7-8 percent here.
One factor is the change at CARTA's most popular #4 route when Eastgate Center officials would no longer allow buses on the property. The stop is now at the Loop Road.
Ms. Maragnano said that route, which also goes to Hamilton Place Mall, is down by 42,000 riders.
Patricia McKoy, a new board member, said, "That's a lot of people - 42,000. What can we do to get them back?"
she said she was not being critical of Ms. Maragnano.
Steve Jett, longtime CARTA board chairman, said, "This lady has a hard job." He said the community wants bus service, but would rather not have bus stops near them.
Ms. Maragnano said CARTA is in continual talks with Eastgate officials, who maintain that the buses were damaging their property.
She said it is not that far a walk to the center from the Loop Road, but bus riders had been accustomed to much-closer service.
It was also speculated that some have stopped riding the bus because their economic situations are now better and they are able to afford cars.
Ms. Maragnano said CARTA and other transit agencies are going to have to try new strategies, including "Flex" routes that are fixed but allow for some deviation when customers call.
Some routes are doing better, including Cromwell, North Chattanooga and Enterprise South.
CARTA continues to do well in the parking arena. Revenues for March were $234,792 and expenses $137,848.
Enforcement brought in over $90,000.
Ms. Maragnano said CARTA is pulling its transit buses off the Market Street Bridge and using the Olgiati Bridge instead.
She said a service change taking effect on May 7 will be for the #6 East Brainerd bus. It will start an hour earlier and run an hour later - mainly to accommodate employees at Erlanger East.
CARTA has been chosen to receive a Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Award and will be honored at an event in Nashville. The award is for the solar-assisted electric vehicle charging and car share.
CARTA is getting three new all-electric buses that will be the first for the transit system, but they will not be ready this month as planned. CARTA also has funding for an additional three of the new electric buses with batteries that go up to 160 miles on a charge.
The delay involves a better design for cooling the batteries.
Officials said there is a lot of interest in East Ridge rejoining CARTA. Some 40 people showed up for a recent hearing, including several city officials. CARTA is getting date together on how the renewed service would work and what the cost would be so East Ridge can make a decision.