The Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority (COTA) reported a 58% ridership increase in its Call-A-Ride Saipan (CARS) Demand Responsive Shared Ride Service for FY2021 compared to last fiscal year.
COTA’s total ridership for FY2021 reached 14,735 trips which has been the highest it’s ever been since the inception of the program in 2011. COTA’s ridership last FY2020 was 9,314 trips.
Part of the increase in ridership is also due to the recent increase in fuel costs in the CNMI. “For FY 2021, we have seen an increase of our community members who have personal cars but would rather take the Call-A-Ride Saipan (CARS) demand responsive shared ride program to reduce their fuel costs and save money at the gas pump,” said Operations and Maintenance Coordinator Ernie Bell.
COTA also records a 67% increase in its revenue farebox collection for FY2021 for a total amount of $45,130 compared to FY2020. “The increase in collected revenue for fiscal year 2021 stems from COTA’s partnering agencies like the Center for Living Independently (CLI), the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC), Kagman Health Community Clinic (KCHC), and the Division of Youth Services (DYS) assisting their consumers with their transportation needs,” said Finance Coordinator Maegan Agulto.
“We are extremely pleased to see the increase in ridership prove that a state transit system, in partnership with other government agencies, the private sector, and the Governor’s COVID-19 Taskforce, can modernize and improve the ridership opportunities to better meet the needs of the communities we serve,” said Special Assistant for Public Transportation Alfreda Camacho Maratita.
COTA continuously supports the CNMI Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force with Emergency Support Function-1 Transportation duties and responsibilities. As of September 30, 2021, COTA has also transported 23,850 passengers under the CNMI Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force since March of 2020.
“The data for both the Call-A-Ride ridership and the COVID-19 transportation counts provide a small picture of the great work being provided by COTA. Alfreda and her team have worked extremely hard this last year to respond to community requests for rides, as well as continuing to remain dedicated to our COVID-19 Task Force as vital parts of our operation to keep the community safe. Everyone from the bus drivers to the office staff should be commended for their excellent work,” said Governor Ralph DLG. Torres.
Through CARES ACT funding, COTA created a transit disinfection team and adopted best practices to thoroughly disinfect transit vehicles to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the CNMI community. COTA reassures the community that it disinfects its transit vehicles every day on a regular basis and is committed to passenger safety during every transit ride.
For more information about COTA’s public transportation services, please call COTA’s One-Call/One-Click Transportation Resource Center at (670) 664-2692 or visit their website at www.cota.gov.mp.