Riders working to keep 83X bus

Riders of the CATS route 83X bus to Charlotte are organizing a "Ride the 83X to Work" campaign for Dec. 13-17 to show Mooresville commissioners there's enough demand to keep the routes running.

Saying buses often were less than half full, Mooresville in October became the second Lake Norman community to cancel CATS commuter service this year. Lincoln County commissioners earlier voted to end CATS commuter service to Denver.

Mayor Chris Montgomery broke a 3-3 tie vote among Mooresville commissioners and voted against a new $25,208 contract with CATS.

The contract would have kept three round-trip routes running weekdays through June 30. Instead, 83X service will end when the town's six-month contract is up Dec. 31. That will force the 61 regular round-trip passengers to find other ways to get uptown.

In October 2009, when the 83X had four routes, average monthly ridership stood at 77 passengers, according to Mooresville Planning Department documents.

Town planners had recommended that the town approve the contract, citing the environmental benefits of keeping more cars off I-77.

Planners estimated the 83X bus annually saves 808,000 vehicle miles, 28,250 gallons of fuel and $76,204 in fuel costs.

CATS 83X rider Karen Brown said she hopes for a strong turnout on the 83X Dec.13-17.

She said she has handed out campaign fliers to riders on all 83X routes and elsewhere in the community.

Brown has used the 83X for several years, since she first learned about it. She previously used the 77X bus from the CATS park-and-ride lot off Interstate 77 Exit 25 in Huntersville to her job in the Bank of America center uptown.

She hopes many of the riders who turned to the 77X bus from Davidson and Huntersville when the number of 83X routes was cut over the past year will also ride the 83X during the campaign.

Ending the 83X will force riders to use park-and-ride lots in Davidson and Huntersville, which could squeeze out some longtime 77X riders, she said, and that would also be unfair.

The idea for the campaign grew from an e-mail exchange Brown had recently with the mayor, who urged her to persuade more people to ride the bus to help show the 83X is necessary.

"Present your findings to me over lunch or a cup of coffee," Montgomery wrote to Brown in an e-mail. "You pick the place, my treat!"

Montgomery's e-mail explained why he opposes spending more on the 83X.

"On the surface, this is not a bad thing," he wrote of the service. "Perhaps I have fallen short to convey the rather broad sentiment expressed by those who are pro 83x. ... I believe CATS is a poor business model and should not be funded by those who foot the bill for their own commutes."

Brown said Montgomery asked her to call him Dec. 20 to arrange a meeting. She said she hopes an increase in riders Dec. 13-17 will prove the service is needed and should be saved.