Ridership on Metro Bus and Rail is rising considerably this year and may be as much 7.5 percent more than the 2006 tally, according to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
High gas prices and environmental concerns are steering more Buffalo and Niagara County residents to public transportation.
"We are seeing positive efforts of more people using Metro and deciding to make it a habit," said NFTA Executive Director Lawrence Meckler. "Increased use of the transit system equates to fewer cars on our highways, a reduction in fuel consumption and cleaner air for us to breathe."
The NFTA counted 23.5 million passenger trips last year, and if ridership trends continue, transit officials said ridership could top 25 million this year.
So far in 2007, ridership has increased each month. Through the first six months of 2007, the NFTA's bus and rail system has counted 12.7 million trips.
Nationally, the American Public Transit Association pegged 2006 ridership of public buses, rail and trolley service at 10.1 billion trips, a 30 percent increase since 1995.
In response to the steadily growing ridership, the NFTA has added extra buses and increased trip frequency to meet demand. An additional 24 round-trips per week are now available on the No. 3/Grant Street route, which serves Buffalo's Black Rock/Riverside neighborhoods and the city's West Side.
More capacity has also been added to the No. 5/Niagara route, which travels through Buffalo, the Town of Tonawanda and Town of Amherst.
The NFTA also reports jumps in the number of steady riders on the No. 66/Williamsville express bus, as well as on the No. 53/Niagara route in Niagara County.
Starting in September, the NFTA plans to beef up its outreach to area businesses to increase commuter rolls. The authority has increased promotion of its Metro Advantage program, which allows riders to purchase monthly passes through their employer and pay with pretax dollars.
The NFTA also wants to hear from businesses about potential changes it could make to increase the number of workers who would opt out of driving to take bus or rail.
"We are going to continue working to provide the community with the type of public transit services that address their daily needs," Meckler said, "so that more people continue to find favor with our Metro services."