“Every month for the first nine months (of the year), we’re up," said Harbor Transit Multimodal Transportation System Director Tom Manderscheid.
Through September, the local bus service has transported 145,858 riders.
Manderscheid attributes the increase to adding Grand Haven Township to the bus system’s service area early this year.
“With the township’s new service territory, that’s pretty much what we expected (for) year one,” he said. “But we expect to build on that.”
Grand Haven Township Manager Bill Cargo said students going to the high school to senior citizens getting to medical appointments all rely on the service in the township.
“I’ve heard of a number of people who use it on a regular basis,” he said.
Harbor Transit also provides demand-response service to the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg, and Spring Lake Village. Select service is also provided to Lloyds Bayou Senior Center, Orchard Market, Heartwood Lodge and Oak Crest Manor in Spring Lake Township.
Cargo said he is also pleased with the first-year numbers, but noted that there is always room for improvement.
“I think that we’re trying to get the numbers up even more,” he said.
Spring Lake resident Cindy Flagler said she uses the bus two or three times a week because it takes her just about everywhere she needs to go. Flagler said she's noticing more riders in the past few months, but she thinks the increase is partly over the rising costs of owning a vehicle.
“For a lot of people ... it’s cheaper than gas to get to some places,” she said.
To make sure Harbor Transit’s numbers continue to grow, Manderscheid said the transit agency would continue to market the service and spread the word about its availability. He said they've recently hired a marketing specialist, who has frequented Grand Haven schools, the senior center and other popular bus pick-up points.
Manderscheid said Harbor Transit will be making improvements next year designed to increase customer service and comfort.
“In 2013, we will be putting in computer-assisted dispatching to be more reliable and provide more customer service,” he said. “All that has to happen for people to want to use it.”
Tribune reporter Krystle Wagner contributed to this story.