Nov. 29 2018 09:58 AM

CATA proposes changes as ridership dwindles


A late-night bus route between East Lansing and Lansing could soon come to an end as the Capital Area Transportation Authority looks to halt the Entertainment Express after more than a decade on the road.

Public transportation needs are constantly evolving, explained Nathan Triplett, chairman of CATA’s board of directors. And over the last four years, data suggests that usual bar crowds have either kept their late-night adventures closer to home or found another way to shuffle between scenes in the Greater Lansing region.

“Our riders are choosing other options in 2018,” Triplett added. “CATA needs to change with them.”

Launched in 2006, the Entertainment Express carts weekend travelers around to 23 designated bus stops between downtown East Lansing and downtown Lansing. Service typically runs from 7:30-9 p.m. on 30-minute intervals and then switches to 15-minute intervals until 3 a.m. while Michigan State University is in session.

It’s designed to “provide service to downtown Lansing and downtown East Lansing restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues, transporting students, professionals and members of the general public,” officials said.

Average ridership, however, has steadily decreased during 44 of the last 51 months. Triplett fought to continue the Entertainment Express route when he served on East Lansing’s City Council back in 2009 but now recognizes the service may have just about outlived its useful existence. It’s time for an adjustment, he said.

“This is a piece of a much larger puzzle of adapting service to rider demands,” Triplett explained.

Here’s the proposal: CATA wants to remove the Entertainment Express and all of its designated stops from its regular weekend lineup. It would instead be replaced with similar but extended service on Route One that would travel a few extra hours longer from 11:35 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Thursdays and from 1:35-3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The proposed change essentially provides later service to the 45 existing Route One stops between downtown Lansing and the Meridian Mall on 40-minute intervals. The shift — assuming it can stand the test of five upcoming public forums — would take effect on March 7 when MSU students are on spring break.

“We often make recommendations to change and improve the service we provide to our riders,” explained CATA CEO Bradley Funkhouser. “We will continue to gather public and customer feedback regarding the proposed routing changes before implementing the changes to ensure that our services reflect their needs.”

A series of public forums (at a variety of locations) are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. There will be no formal presentations, which instead will allow CATA staff to meet and interact with attendees one-on-one. Public comment is welcome. Visit cata.org/entertainmentexpresspublicmeetings for more details.

kyle@lansingcitypulse.com