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Riding KAT to Neyland Stadium: Bus Ridership Way Up for Vols' Season Opener 
KAT: Big jump in bus ridership by Vol fans for season opener.

For Knoxville Area Transit drivers, managers and service crews, it wasn't a typical Thursday night.

The same could be said by the many Vol fans who, some for the first time, opted to ride a KAT bus to a University of Tennessee football game to avoid the headache and expense of parking.

KAT ridership for the rare Thursday night game on Sept. 1 was up dramatically - by 32.8 percent on six core routes (Route 11-Kingston Pike, Route 17-Sutherland Avenue, Route 20-Central Street, Route 22- Broadway, Route 31-Magnolia Avenue, and Route 41-Chapman Highway).

The Kingston Pike bus, because it drops off riders on Cumberland Avenue, just two blocks from Neyland Stadium, saw the biggest increase - a 51.5 percent increase over the Thursday average for the preceding month.

"Everyone expected traffic and parking for the first game to be a little chaotic, because it was played on a Thursday night," said Dawn Distler, the City's Director of Transit. "But I think the people who tried KAT for the first time on a game day were pleasantly surprised.

"Bottom line: Riding to Neyland Stadium is easy. It's less expensive, it's less stressful. You're not paying to park. You're not battling traffic. It's an easy, good experience."

Riding KAT was an attractive option for new riders because of the Thursday night game. Downtown workers and game-day tailgaters shared parking lots and garages, making finding a favorite Saturday parking place more difficult on a Thursday. And because KAT was operating its regular weekday bus routes, fewer game-day shuttles could be offered. (KAT shuttles still carried 4,892 passengers.)

In addition, due to the City’s $17 million Cumberland Avenue reconstruction project, which will continue through next August, KAT is offering a free-fare zone for riders going into Cumberland Avenue from downtown or boarding a bus on Cumberland. The numbers show a 74 percent increase in free-fare zone ridership on Sept. 1.

KAT says the best deal for many game-day riders would be to buy an unlimited day pass for $4, although less expensive fare combinations, especially utilizing the fare-free zone, are available. (In comparison, parking in many garages and lots on game day costs $10 to $30.) 

Few expected the football game to go to overtime. For KAT workers, a stadium emptying out at one time late at night made for a long shift. Drivers, managers and service crews stayed over several hours to make sure everyone got back home. The last buses ran til 1 a.m. (Typically, the last KAT bus on a weekday runs at 11:15 p.m.)

"Our team did a great job helping first-time riders plan their routes, then made sure everyone got on board," Distler said. "We had our supervisors and operators walking up and down Cumberland, assisting people. We used colored balloons at bus stops to help direct riders. Then, after 1 a.m., our service crews got the buses fueled and ready for the next morning, so all the buses got rolling on time Friday."

Interested in riding KAT to next Saturday's noon game against Ohio University? Call KAT at 865-637-3000.

While all buses were picking up passengers every 15 or 30 minutes on Thursday, Sept. 1 - because of the increased frequency of weekday routes - KAT on Saturdays will run buses on Magnolia and Kingston Pike every 30 minutes, or hourly for other routes. Call KAT or visit www.katbus.com for detailed schedule information or to plan your commute to the game.

Normal game-day shuttles will be added for the rest of the home UT football season. However, KAT’s long-range vision is to increase game-day services and bus frequency on the regular routes, and to de-emphasize special shuttles, if ridership trends continue to develop in that direction.

Also, check out today's Knoxville News Sentinel story on game-day bus ridership by clicking HERE.

Posted by evreeland On 16 September, 2016 at 10:54 AM