Bus ridership in Gainesville continues to increase this year, but not due to rising gas prices.

Regional Transit System saw an increase in ridership this year after partnering with Santa Fe College.

Since the beginning of the Fall 2011 semester, Santa Fe students haven’t had to pay for every ride on a city bus due to a $3 increase per credit hour in student fees.

Chip Skinner, the marketing and communications supervisor for RTS, said he is surprised by the increase.

“We have seen a 4 percent increase in growth for Fall 2011 and a 3 percent increase for 2012, which is significant for only two months,” he said.

Skinner said 80,000 more passengers rode the bus in February 2012 compared to February 2011.

RTS worked with Santa Fe College to add three new bus routes. Three older routes continue to operate near the college, and all the buses stop more frequently at each location.

Skinner said it took 10 years for the partnership to become a reality.

Students consistently asked for increased bus service, but the process took longer than expected.

Jackson Sasser, the president of Santa Fe College, said the new routes are an “absolute bonus.”

More routes and increased bus ridership opens up parking spots on campus. In addition, the partnership promotes safety and benefits the environment, he said.

“I hope to never build another parking lot,” Sasser said. “The parking index is so expensive, and it costs $10,000 per parking spot. We could build more facilities and hire more faculty.”

Cathy Vasquez, a Santa Fe sophomore, said she was glad the new routes were added.

“I don’t have a car, so I rely heavily on the bus system,” she said. “With the old routes, I had to take two different buses to get to and from school. Now, the new routes take me straight to and from campus.”

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