OmniRide is looking to build on its rebounding ridership with the introduction of local Sunday bus service.
With an Aug. 28 target date for the beginning of the service, the transit agency is planning to run buses seven days a week for the first time in its history.
The expanded service is funded through the 2023 Prince William County budget and will look exactly like Saturday service on local routes, which has been nearing pre-pandemic levels in terms of ridership. OmniRide’s commuter and express lines will continue to run only Mondays through Fridays.
“The reality is, if you go out and look at traffic congestion on a Sunday, it looks just like a Saturday. The same businesses are open, employment is now a seven-day-a-week thing, and we’ve never had Sunday service here despite the shift in the economy over the last 20 years or so in that way,” OmniRide Director Bob Schneider told InsideNoVa. “Years ago, there really wasn’t the budget space for it. But our local service has gotten stronger.”
Ridership on the transit agency’s buses has been steadily increasing throughout 2022, reaching new post-pandemic highs, although the number of riders is still only about half of what it was in 2019. Saturdays in particular have seen strong ridership growth on local routes, drawing between 600 and 1,000 daily riders so far this year on the limited Saturday routes. That performance led the bus system to consider the Sunday service.
Once the Sunday service is running, Schneider said the agency could consider expanding its Saturday service. But first, he said, leadership wants to see whether Sunday buses actually draw Saturday riders who might be limiting certain weekend errands or other tasks to Saturdays only because of the lack of public transit on Sundays.
“Our Saturdays have performed really, really well. We don’t have as many buses, but we have strong ridership, so it performs really well from that standpoint. And customer feedback has been, ‘Hey, this is something we need,’” Schneider said. “We felt that, let’s get seven days going inside the community and then let’s look at what that does.”
OmniRide will ask for formal approval for the proposal from the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission’s board at its July meeting.
Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org