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Wave Transit reconfigures hoping to boost low ridership

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The Wave Transit system is reconfiguring some of its routes adding stops along its Brunswick and Columbus County lines. Managers are hoping the move will boost some woeful ridership numbers.

Few people ride the bus and it costs hundreds of tax payer dollars to run and operate daily. City Council members say Wave Transit has consistently lost money but it's something the city can't do without.

Wave Transit has fourteen routes, some downtown, some at UNCW, and lines going to Brunswick and Columbus counties.

That Columbus County route hasn't seen many passengers. According to Wave Transit numbers in the past seven months, only 300 people rode the Columbus County connector.

That's about one person per day.

"It's sort of the idea of build it and they will come, have the service and somebody will take it, But it looks like it's not happening," City Councilman Jim Quinn said.

Now Wave Transit is adding new stops to the route in Leland and Delco.

"This program was started in a county with high unemployment, Columbus, to provide service to a county with low unemployment, New Hanover, where the jobs are," Wave Transit Director Albert Eby said.

But is it the best use of your tax dollars? Wave Transit says including maintenance, driver salary and gas, it costs $52 per hour to run the bus. That's $400 per day. A hefty price tag for a day averaging only one passenger.

"Well, it's true that it doesn't make any money," Jim Quinn said.

"It doesn't make sense if you look at it necessary from an economic stand point, but we're just trying to utilize the system the best to our advantage the way that it's set up," Eby with Wave Transit said.

Councilman Jim Quinn says since Wave Transit's inception three years ago, the bus system has always lost money. But there's never been any talk to get rid of the transportation program.

"What's the alternative?" Quinn said, "There's a large section of our population that can't get where they want to go without it."

Wave Transit is considering adding new routes one to Wrightsville Beach. It will go before the Board of Alderman Monday.

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