Use of bike racks on Milwaukee County buses has doubled in 2011, and the Milwaukee County Transit System projects the total number of bikes on buses will approach 100,000 for the year.
Through Sept. 30, drivers recorded 68,541 bikes racked on buses, more than double the 33,615 counted in the first nine months of 2010. Use of the racks hit a high of 13,920 in August.
Critics of the racks, which cost $405,000 when installed in 2009, have argued the usage has been minimal and not enough to justify the spending.
The numbers released Wednesday show usage moving closer to the numbers advocates for the racks had predicted.
At 100,000 per year, the number of bikes racked on buses would meet the early projections from bus system managers, but remain short of the 200,000 touted by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. The advocacy group led the lobbying for the spending and installation.
“Critics will be quick to point out that even 100,000 boardings is only half the original projection of 200,000 annual bicycle boardings,” said Kevin Hardman, Executive Director of the bike federation. “But those early projections did not factor in an economic recession of the magnitude we have been living with for the last few years.”
Hardman added that the down economy has resulted in a slowdown in driving cars as well, even though traffic engineers predicted much larger annual increases.
Providing riders an option of bringing a bike expands the reach of the bus system, according to Jacqueline Janz, spokeswoman for MCTS.
MCTS bus stops are within walking distance for 85% of county residents, and 99% of county residents are within biking distance.
With Bikes on Buses, MCTS is able to give customers a public transportation option that promotes a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle, Janz said. Bike racks make it even easier for MCTS passengers to leave their car at home for their workday commute, head out to explore Milwaukee County parks and bike trails, or enjoy a bike ride on their lunch break.
The usage is tracked by the drivers, who record each time a bike is racked on a bus. MCTS estimates the drivers undercount the total usage by about 15%.
In all of 2010, drivers recorded 47,995 bikes on buses. Through Sept. 30 this year, the drivers recorded 68,541 uses.
On a monthly average, usage increased from 3,999 to 5,711.
At that pace, usage for the year would hit roughly 85,000, short of the 100,000 MCTS officials touted in a release. That 100,000 figure would be reached if the monthly usage continues on a pace double that in 2010.