Holidays throughout the year present opportunities for people to unite in celebration with family and friends. Many businesses give employees holidays off, but not everyone gets that benefit. For instance, Duluth has a large service sector and medical industry that rely heavily on the Duluth Transit Authority (DTA) to provide transportation for their employees every day of the year.
The inception of the DTA’s current holiday service was driven by a strong demand within the community. Many Duluth residents requested transportation during these days. This demand persuaded the DTA’s Board of Directors to institute holiday schedules in 2011. Prior to that year, service was suspended on holidays. Now, the DTA operates limited holiday service on New Year’s Eve, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.
A lot of people do take the bus to work, but there are many other reasons to ride the bus on a holiday. Whether you’re traveling to visit family on Christmas or looking to view Fourth of July fireworks and don’t want to pay for parking or deal with the traffic afterwards; public transit is a useful resource every day of the year.
The DTA has provided free fares on Thanksgiving Day for 24 consecutive years. This Thanksgiving holiday service has a limited schedule, but it also features two shuttle buses, “Turkey Bus 1” and "Turkey Bus 2,” that transport passengers to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center (DECC) where they can enjoy a free meal with all the trimmings. In 2013, the DTA transported 2,183 passengers on Thanksgiving Day.
On Christmas Eve, the DTA suspends service after 7:00 p.m. for most routes, but does offer limited holiday service the following day. Most recently in 2013, the DTA had 1,027 passengers on Christmas Day.
The DTA extends service on New Year’s Eve and has a limited holiday schedule for New Year’s Day. Three years ago, the DTA developed the “Play It Safe” campaign to promote responsible New Year’s Eve celebrations. The Fond du Luth Casino has been the presenting sponsor of this campaign since it began in 2011. This campaign offers free fares after 5:00 p.m. and extended service until approximately 2:00 a.m. on most bus routes.
The awareness of the “Play It Safe” campaign continues to grow along with the ridership. In 2013, 2,557 passengers rode the bus during the special DTA holiday service. Ridership on New Year’s Day was also robust at 1,990.
Ridership on other holidays is also strong. The DTA transported 2,529 passengers on Memorial Day in 2013 and 3,119 passengers on Labor Day that same year. The Fourth of July holiday had the largest holiday ridership at 3,216. This includes 290 passengers from the DTA’s two Port Town Trolleys that ran service to the Duluth Fourth Fest in Canal Park.
These holiday ridership numbers are less than DTA’s average daily ridership of 8,982 passengers. However, people are riding the bus on these days and the clear benefit to the public warrants providing the service. Public transit on holidays is important for many reasons. Some depend on it for getting to the office while others are just looking for a safe and convenient mode of transportation on days when there are not many other options.
DTA Bus Operator, Roger Carr, was happy to drive Mayor Ness and Santa Claus to the Miller Hill Mall for the "Slumber Party with Santa."