MATS Bus System Sees Ridership Increase In 2011; Muskegon County Airport Down Overall, But Sees Recent Surge

Andrew Trzaska | August 21, 2011

New numbers are out concerning ridership on the MATS bus system and the number of passengers using the Muskegon County Airport.

Through July, the Muskegon Area Transit System’s bus ridership is up virtually across the board, on both the day and night schedules.

On the fixed day routes that criss-cross town, 416,655 passengers have been tallied in the first 10 months of the fiscal year, which is up 15% over last year’s number of 362,228 passengers at this time in 2010.

Evening MATS service saw a 4% decline in ridership from June to July, but has overall seen a 153% increase from 2010 to 2011 – 19,702 passengers last year to 49,796 in 2011.

The MATS Go-Bus saw a 39% increase as well.

The Muskegon Trolley, which runs a route from downtown to the beach, has also seen a 9% increase over last year’s ridership.

The Muskegon County airport has had some declines and rises in different categories of air service, but has seen a strong increase in commercial passengers since May.

Month-to-month passenger service compared to last year is down about 1%, with its worst month this year coming in January, when passenger totals were down 24% from last year on the Airport’s only carrier, United.

However, the past three months have seen steep increases in the number of ticketed passengers, and 6 of the past 10 months have seen increases over the same months in 2010.

The increase of ticketed passengers runs concurrently with a new ad campaign the airport started in late spring, which invites flight-seekers to investigate overall cost associated with flying out of Muskegon versus traveling somewhere else to fly.

All in all, 57% of United seats were filled in July, boosting the overall year-to-date average of 36% of seats in 2011.

Though private aviation is down and the amount of commercial passengers remains a mixed bag, the Muskegon County Airport has seen a rise on cargo shipment in and out of the airport, up 348% since 2010.

Muskegon’s airport escaped proposed cuts to the federal government’s Essential Air Service program this summer. However, future cuts remain in question as Washington works out the next round of deficit reduction.

As for the MATS line, an increase in ridership and bus improvements come alongside some staff retooling. This includes the reduction of some full-time positions to part time, voted on and passed at Thursday’s county commission meeting.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst