Raleigh to offer shuttle buses downtown on New Year's Eve

The city will run two park-and-ride bus routes to help New Year's Eve revelers travel downtown on Wednesday night.

Capital Area Transit buses will pick up passengers at central stops in North Raleigh and East Raleigh and drop them off downtown near the Capitol.

David Walker, a city transit planner, said residents have asked for dedicated routes to major events, similar to the service offered during the State Fair.

The New Year's Eve buses will allow the city to test the interest in additional park-and-ride routes. If all runs smoothly, the bus service could be a model for future events.

"We decided to offer the services and see how it goes and possibly offer it for other events in 2015," Walker said.

The drop-off point will leave riders in the midst of First Night, a festival with musical performances and art events that draws about 50,000 people each year.

Terri Dollar, program director for Artsplosure, which produces First Night, said the city's decision to extend bus service is a welcome one. The organization has considered offering bus service on its own, but the logistics were too hard to pull off.

"It's an awesome way to get here - cheap and easy," she said.

The buses will run every 30 minutes, beginning at 6 p.m. The last buses will leave downtown at 1 a.m. A one-way trip costs $1.25, and a day pass is $2.50.

Two or three buses will run each route, with additional vehicles and drivers on standby if participation is more than anticipated, Walker said. The final cost to the city will depend on how many buses are used.

For those who drive downtown, the city will use color-coded signs outside of city-owned parking decks to help drivers remember where they parked.

Artsplosure also hopes to make navigating the festival easier with a mobile app featuring maps and schedules.