Macki Bobys has lived in Lexington for 35 years and, until Monday, had never ridden a city bus.
She took a LexTran shuttle to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and couldn't have been more pleased.
"I mean, a dollar to WEG, you can't beat it," she said.
Riders might win medals, but WEG has given LexTran a victory in the arena of public opinion: prompt, clean, fast, convenient.
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It's a change from the lively debate in 2004 about a LexTran tax increase in which some questioned Lexington's need for a wide-ranging public transit service, with some grumbling about half-filled buses around the city.
But six years later, it appears the shuttle to the Kentucky Horse Park has opened the eyes of many Lexingtonians to the convenience of public transportation. It saves walking time at the Horse Park, is cheaper than the $20 parking there and eliminates worry about traffic tie-ups.
LexTran holds to a strict schedule of running shuttles from the downtown terminal to the Horse Park every half hour. And on Sunday, when lines starting forming at the Horse Park with people waiting for a bus, LexTran called in more buses. While some of the riders on LexTran have been out-of-state visitors, many have been Lexingtonians who are elated at finding a deal. On Sunday the buses were filled with college students, who got into the Horse Park free, while on Monday the shuttle crowd tended more toward locals curious about the big event.
"The last time I rode a bus was probably 40 years ago," said Mary Morgan of Lexington, who was having a ladies' day out with her friend Lenna Dixon. "This beats the hassle. This is just going to be awesome."
Said Anna Leon, an Asbury University student from Baltimore who was going to the Games to shoot photos for her school newspaper: "The bus was nicer than I was expecting. I'm used to buses that are dirty and smelly."
LexTran spokeswoman Jill Barnett said LexTran had 2,334 riders Sunday on its shuttle from the transit center to the Games; on Saturday, that was 2,075.
How does that compare with a regular day at LexTran? On average, Barnett said, a regular day for all Lexington routes is probably about 11,000 riders.
The number of riders for the shuttles being run by the housing bureau for the Games, which includes some hotels in Lexington and in nearby counties, could not be obtained.
But there's no doubt that the LexTran shuttle is a hit.
"I rode it out there Saturday and back, and it was perfect," said Denise Teater, who works in destination sales for the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau and was riding the shuttle back downtown on Monday afternoon. "It couldn't have gone any more flawlessly."
Former Mayor Pam Miller said she, husband Ralph, and friends Mary Ann and Jim Squires got on the shuttle downtown Saturday, realized they left their tickets back in the car, got off and retrieved the tickets, and still were on time to catch the next shuttle a half-hour later.
For Miller, a longtime supporter of LexTran who rode the bus as a public official, hoping to set an example for others, the success of the shuttle to the Games is particularly sweet.
"I felt this was a great introduction for a lot of people to see that riding on the bus can be anguish-free and very comfortable," she said.