Longview Transit hopes to make it easy this year to “dump the pump” by offering free rides on public transit buses.
The goal of National Dump the Pump Day is to encourage motorists to save money by using public transportation instead of paying high prices at the gas pump, said Damiya Pentecost, mobility manager of Longview Transit System.
“We want people to know that we are here regardless of gas prices,” she said.
The event has been observed by transportation agencies across the nation for the past seven years, but will be making its debut Thursday in Longview.
Dump the Pump Day started in 2006, when gas prices were at a high of $3 per gallon — a price many people would welcome today, as gasoline prices skyrocketed to $4 per gallon earlier this year.
Sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, the event is intended to promote public transportation as an option for increasingly hard-pressed Americans. The association’s latest Transit Savings Report showed that a two-person household that downsizes to one car from two would save about $10,000 a year, on average.
Longview Transit hopes to spread the message beyond its current riders in order to gain riders who have never experienced the public transit system, Pentecost said.
“We would love for people to come out and we welcome the opportunity to introduce riders to the transit system,” she said.
Already, more people have begun using the system, according to recent passenger data.
In February, the transit system carried 17,369 passengers. That was an increase of 42.5 percent, or more than 5,100 passengers, from February 2011. Month-over-month ridership numbers also have been increasing steadily this year as gasoline prices have continued to increase, and as the system has expanded service hours. It now runs from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. on weekdays.
In addition to offering free rides Thursday, Longview Transit plans to show appreciation to riders by handing out goodies to transit customers at Magrill Park.
The free fare rides will be available from 6:15 a.m. to 7:15 p.m., Pentecost said.