Local Commitments Lead to Record Bus Ridership

Major commitments by the largest Northwest Arkansas cities and Washington County helped Ozark Regional Transit provide more service than ever to riders in 2014.

The 320,976 trips by riders last year were the most in the public transportation system’s history. Led by Fayetteville’s $300,000 contributions, Ozark Regional Transit received major financial commitments last year from Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Washington County.

The bus system provided 295,045 trips in 2013.

The service is much larger than it was only a few years ago. It provided about 150,000 trips in 2007.

The regional importance of ORT cannot be overstated as it enables people who don’t drive to make low-cost trips to stores, colleges, medical appointments and workplaces. Area employees in annual Employer Retention and Expansion (ERE) surveys conducted by area chambers of commerce and the Northwest Arkansas Council identified the need for expanded public transportation as a top priority.

Joel Gardner, ORT's executive director, identified the increased financial commitments by communities and the system’s more reliable, on-time service as main reasons for the increase in passengers.

“The communities provided ORT with an opportunity to increase its footprint throughout NWA,” Gardner said. “The direct counsel and support from many of the community leaders kept ORT in the forefront of many citizens' minds.”

Now, several smaller communities in the region are providing new assistance to ORT. West Fork, Greenland and Lincoln are providing funds in 2015, and Farmington, Prairie Grove and Johnson increased how much they are providing in 2015 over 2014’s amount.

Additionally, Ozark Regional Transit is working effectively and in coordination with Razorback Transit, the larger bus system operating on the University of Arkansas campus and in many areas of Fayetteville. For example, the two systems have worked to eliminate some route dupication and are working together to provide better services.