RENO, NV - “The mountain is high, the valley is low and you're confused on which way to go. So, I’ve come here to give you a hand and lead you into the promised land. So, come on and take a free ride!” - Edgar Winter Group.
It’s not clear if anyone ended up in “the promise land,” but like the Edgar Winter Group’s song, “Free Ride,” on Thursday June 21st RTC took people up mountains, through valleys and eliminated confusion about buses through free rides. It was the first “Dump the Pump” day.
“It ended up being a record increase. The most people ever using public transportation in our community,” said David Jickling, RTC Public Transportation Director. In his 22 years with the commission, this is only the second or third time this has been offered. 32,000 passengers hit the bus, a 34 percent increase.
The big factor in the success is the economy, he says. “Most of our customers pay cash and people planned around that day and If I save my shopping or doctors appointment we will get to ride for free, and for a lot of people that makes a difference right now.”
While the economy is a factor getting people on the bus, just like the Edgar Winter Group’s song, the obstacle preventing people from getting on is confusion,
"People see these buses and . . . ‘I don't know which one to get on.’ There is a nervous factor: “Will the bus driver be helpful” . . . and that it is sort of a fear factor. So if we can overcome that with 'what can go wrong here,' well it is free.’
While it is a free ride for the people, this is not cheap for the RTC. The loss of revenue is about the equivalent of what it would cost to do a good advertising campaign in the media, he said. “And this really gets people on the bus. Just telling people about the bus doesn't really seem to get them on the bus. This does."
So, the success means they will likely do more free rides in the future. You not only get a little help for your pocketbook, there is also a lot of help from other riders.
“There are a lot of regular riders and they can tell who is a new person. That is important in the sense that they are happy to help you,” Jickling says.
The free events are important in a down economy because it helps expand the service he says. They plan on expanding the rapid service to UNR and Summit mall. While the perception of a ‘promise land’ is relative, the RTC is trying to make some pretty challenging promises with this service, hitting major destinations with fewer stop.
“We are really trying to compete with the car. If you are trying to go from your house to the Atlantis or Meadow Wood Mall you can get there as fast as in your car and maybe even faster, especially if you had to find parking. With a bus you don't have to do that,” he said.
But the RTC wants you to judge for yourself . . . “So, come on and take a free ride.”