Raleigh’s CAT buses try to entice young riders

jspector@newsobserverJune 21, 2013 

— Capital Area Transit is sweetening a summer deal to try to get more teens to ride the bus after few got on board with the initial offer.

Since June 1, CAT has offered a $50 Summer Youth Pass that gives anyone ages 13 to 17 unlimited bus rides until Sept. 1. Rides typically cost $1 each way.

Transit Administrator David Eatman said the buses offer access to places of employment and entertainment for teens looking to pass the time during the summer.

“We’ll hopefully get at least a few new riders who will think, ‘That was convenient and affordable and meets my needs,’ ” Eatman said. “And if you get those thoughts going, they might develop into a long-time transit user.”

So far, relatively few teens have pursued the offer. As of Friday, 13 had purchased passes, said Lindsay Pennell, a transit marketing specialist. The goal was to sell 150.

Now, CAT is offering a cheaper deal: On July 1, the price will drop to $30, Pennell said.

CAT operates 30 bus routes and other special lines emanating from downtown Raleigh, reaching all the colleges and universities, Crabtree Valley Mall, Triangle Towne Center and the three big hospitals: Duke, Rex and WakeMed.

Eatman identified young people as a group for whom CAT could expand its services. Of the total trips taken on the CAT system, riders younger than 16 account for 1 percent, and riders ages 16 to 24 make up 27 percent, he said.

Raven McLaurin, 14, of Raleigh got a youth bus pass for the summer. She’s doing an environmental science internship at Shaw University, and wanted to have the buses as a backup for when her parents couldn’t pick her up. She said it also comes in handy for going shopping downtown.

“I thought it would be really cool to not just stay at home,” Raven said. “But I can’t drive, and my brother can’t drive, so we can’t really go anywhere unless our parents drive us.”

She rode the bus with her older brother, and said they weren’t bothered by the people they encountered on the bus.

She recommended the pass for other young people, but noted that they “should talk about it with their parents, and it would be safer to ride in twos. I just feel like there’s safety in numbers.”

The public transit system may play a bigger role for young people as more youths nationally begin driving at an older age, Eatman said. Many are delaying the purchase of a vehicle, for financial or other reasons.

“I got my driver’s license back in 1985, and back then I think you pretty much tried to mark it to the day,” he said. “Now, many youth are waiting until even after graduation to get their license.”

Given that trend, CAT buses offer an alternative form of transportation to movie theaters, parks, and summer jobs.

Spector: 919-836-491

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