GUEST COLUMN: Why drivers ride the bus

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Bad news for the auto industry may be good news for public transit

According to Advertising Age, a top magazine for trend analysis, the automobile is rapidly becoming less relevant to an increasing number of people younger than 30. 

Reasons for this change include telecommuting, high fuel prices and environmental concerns.

Bad news for the auto industry may be good news for public transportation services. But, not so fast, that doesn’t mean everyone endorses the need for public transit.

Arguments pro and con run the gamut of opinions. There are those who would rather walk than take the bus, those who have no other way to get around and those who believe the bus is the best thing that ever happened in Oldham County.

A bit of research uncovers basic reasons why people do not use public transit.

Safety is a huge issue among opposition voices. They believe that riding public transit makes them more vulnerable to muggings, for instance.

Others say that being on a slow-moving bus ties them to a route so it’s not convenient for them.
The most outspoken group is those who feel that owning and driving a car is their right as long as they can afford it.

They argue that public transit is a waste of resources and runs counter to the American dream of independence and self-sufficiency.

On the other hand, advocates for public transit recognize that it is a necessity for some and a good choice for others. While they acknowledge the need to plan ahead, give up a bit of impulsiveness, and share a confined space with others, they feel these are minor issues.

They say that public transit offers an alternative and increases their choices for getting around. In addition, they believe that fewer vehicles on public roads improve air quality and is environmentally responsible.

Both sides agree on one thing: using public transit should be a matter of choice. In rural areas where cities are spread apart, it is challenging to operate public transit that is truly a convenient alternative.

In 2005, Oldham’s Public Bus (Opie for short) started serving Oldham County under its former name, LOCAL Transit. The name change is an effort to let everyone know the bus is for the public and not limited to any specialized group.

Even though major shopping areas are not in close proximity to residential areas, Opie has experimented to find the right combination of routes, times and places to provide the best service for Oldham residents.

A route in Crestwood and Pewee Valley turned out to be undesirable having only three riders in the seven months it operated. The route was discontinued.

A connector route between Crestwood and La Grange met a similar fate due to poor ridership. Opie’s current La Grange route (the Red Route) and La Grange-Buckner connector (the Green route) have proven the most successful combination so far. They have grown consistently and nearly 1,300 passengers use these routes each month.

Oldham’s Public Bus offers an alternative for those in La Grange and Buckner who want to let someone else fight the growing traffic snarls up and down Ky. 53 or who find Opie the best way to get to work, the grocery or to cool off in the pool at Wendell Moore Park. Opie plans to monitor and respond to changes in demographics and services.

Opie is ever mindful of the fact that it is a service to the public. As such, Opie continues to monitor Oldham’s growth and needs for the future.

Cynthia B. Stafford is the director of HDB Service Group Inc., an Oldham County-based nonprofit that operates Oldham’s Public Bus. She can be reached at (502) 222-6400 or cstafford@hdbservicegroup.com