LexTran is assessing Lexington's future mass transportation needs and wants your opinion.
A series of public meetings has been scheduled to solicit ideas and discuss preliminary findings by a consulting firm hired to gather information about people's wants and needs.
R.L.S. & Associates, based in Dayton, Ohio, has been conducting a "comprehensive operational analysis" of LexTran, something that is done every four to five years. The firm has taken surveys, done rider counts and conducted interviews with "stakeholders" — people like the mayor, Urban County Council members and representatives of businesses and non-profit groups.
Among the findings so far:
■ 78 percent of riders are ages of 18 to 49.
■ More than half have an annual household income of less than $15,000.
■ More than half don't own a vehicle.
■ 38 percent use LexTran to get to and from work.
■ 30 percent use public transportation for school.
These figures cannot be directly compared to those in the 2004 comprehensive operational analysis because different methods were used.
But one thing is certain: A far smaller percentage of LexTran riders uses a student fare now than did in 2004 — 25 percent today compared to 41 percent in 2004.
The difference might be due to the fact that in 2004 there was a free ride program for students, made possible through government funding, said LexTran spokesman Dave Riggins.
Riggins said current analysis figures show significant increases in ridership on some LexTran routes. For example, ridership on the Hamburg Pavilion route has increased 121.5 percent since 2004, while Tates Creek Road route ridership has increased 73 percent, LexTran said.
When all of the facts, figures and opinions are in, there could be major changes in the way LexTran operates.
Ridership figures and population density changes already are forcing the transit service to take a look at potentially more efficient alternatives to its current "pulsing" system, in which buses travel in and out of the transit center on Vine Street twice an hour.
Crosstown service that would not involve trips to the transit center, as well as satellite transfer locations, are among the approaches LexTran officials have been studying, Riggins said.