Wichita officials said Wednesday an extra 15,000 riders piled onto city buses last week during its Free Fares Week.
The purpose of the event, held between July 14 and 19, was to raise awareness about city transit services, increase ridership and help the environment, according to Tonya Bronleewe of the Environmental Health division.
She said if each of the new riders had driven 10 miles to work instead of taking the bus, that would have added up to 304,000 miles traveled and deposited another 454 pounds of pollutants into the air.
Bronleewe encouraged people to keep riding the bus.
“That’s really good for our air quality,” she said.
“If you haven’t tried it, try it.”
Ridership during the promotion rose 71 percent compared to 2013. Philip Zevenbergen of Wichita Transit said there was standing room only on many buses.
“That hasn’t happened — ever,” he said, calling the event “an overwhelming success.”
Ozone Alert Days will also bring Free Fare Days. These days occur when ozone levels are expected to be high. Riding public transportation can help keep ozone levels low and within federal limits.
So far this year, Wichita has seen no Ozone Alert Days.
“We are just getting the right weather patterns,” Bronleewe said.
“It’s just a lucky year.”