The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, or PART, depends mostly on a 5 percent tax on rental cars for a big chunk of its funding. And as business travel declined during the recession, so did the agency's revenues. From 2008 to 2010, PART's rental tax revenue dropped by about $1 million.
So, the agency cut routes and service times. In the last four years, the miles traveled by the agency's express buses were cut in half. And yet even with the cutbacks, ridership remained high.
Now as the economy recovers and business travel increases, PART's outlook is brighter, andthe agency may soon beef up its services. It used to be that PART would create a wide web of routes across the region, but now areas that provide the most money to PART will see the biggest boost, according to Executive Director Scott Rhyne.
"We have essentially established budgets for each individual corridor that really represents the money that comes in, into the service that goes back," Rhyne says. "And that's essentially one of the biggest changes we've had in the last year and a half."
That means you're likely to see more buses on corridors in Guilford and Forsyth County – the key sources of the agency's money – as opposed to seeing buses heading to new places.
Rhyne says there are underserved areas where he'd like to see service added. For example, there's currently no PART service coming out of US 29 or 220 from Rockingham County - major commuter thoroughfares. Rhyne says that could change, but it will take some cooperation.
"We don't have a revenue source in Rockingham County, so we need to address that," he says. "And is that something the county commissioners recognize as a benefit to their constituents?"
Rhyne says the expansion of existing routes could begin as soon as late this year or early next year. There's currently no timetable for adding new routes.