College Street circle

An AppalCART bus at the College Street circle shelter waits for passengers in January 2020.

BOONE — Infrastructure needs, potential route changes and more will be a part of AppalCART’s presentation of its comprehensive service review on Feb. 18 as it continues to experience record ridership numbers in 2019.

“Topics will include passenger survey results, ridership history, route changes and system growth,” AppalCART Director Craig Hughes stated on Feb. 5. “Also, find out about facility and infrastructure needs that have been identified, as well as opportunities for our partners to assist us as we strive to meet current and future demand for our service.”

The comprehensive service review is an annual look at the effectiveness of the various route and services offered by the Boone-based public transit system. The presentation takes place at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the Attic Window room (137C) of the Plemmons Student Union on the campus of Appalachian State University.

The review comes in the midst of AppalCART’s busiest fiscal year in history. According to Hughes, AppalCART has experienced a 19 percent increase in ridership so far in the 2019-20 fiscal year. As of Jan. 20, the number since the start of the 2019-20 fiscal year was 1,178,018.

“We anticipate passing two million trips in early May,” Hughes said.

The two-million-plus mark would break AppalCART’s previous fiscal-year record of 1.84 million riders, set in 2015-16.

From 2005 to 2016, AppalCART usage skyrocketed from less than 700,000 total riders in 2004-05 – the last fiscal year that AppalCART charged a fare for riders – to more than 1.8 million total riders a decade later. Annual total ridership has stayed around that 1.8 million mark in the last four years.

The ridership increase comes in the second fiscal year after major route overhauls were completed at the onset of the 2018-19 fiscal year. According to Hughes, the route changes made in spring and summer 2018 were designed to make sure prospective riders, mainly ASU students, didn’t have to wait long, as certain routes were often filling up before reaching campus.

AppalCART set a single-day ridership record of 18,000 on Oct. 31, a Thursday when ASU had a home football game that night.

Blowing Rock route approved for 2020

A weekend-only route for the town of Blowing Rock will continue through 2020, Hughes confirmed. The approval was made by the AppalCART Board of Directors on Jan. 20.

“The total ridership for 2019 on the Blowing Rock route was 698,” Hughes said. “Staff recommended running the route for one more year to see if ridership increased. The (AppalCART) board approved the route for one more year and asked staff to continue to monitor ridership on the route for consideration next year.”

The draft changes to the route in 2020 would include stops at Green Park Inn, the Holiday Inn Express and the Village Inn.

The original approval of the route in 2019 came at the request of the town, which is looking to alleviate traffic jams and parking problems in downtown caused by increasing numbers of tourists.

The route runs on Fridays and Saturdays from mid-May until late October, when part-time residents increase the population of the town, normally 1,250, to more than 5,000 people.

Blowing Rock Town Council members have expressed happiness with the route in past meetings while town staff have worked to spread word of the routes among the citizens, letting them know of the stop times and that the shuttle is free to use.

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