FORT WALTON BEACH Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization representatives this week announced substantial Okaloosa County Transit ridership gains.


FORT WALTON BEACH Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization representatives this week announced substantial Okaloosa County Transit ridership gains.



Ridership numbers ending 2012 for routes connecting Crestview, Niceville and Fort Walton Beach showed increases up to 6 percent contrasted with 2011 nearly triple the American Public Transportation Association's national average.



"We are thrilled to see that more members in our community are utilizing the system to connect to their jobs, broaden their education, access healthcare facilities and support local businesses," said Lani Birchett, transit coordinator and grants manager. "We anticipate that these numbers will only continue to grow as we move into 2013 with a proactive plan to educate the community and make riding OCT even easier."



Annual reports demonstrate the following increases contrasted with 2011 ridership:



Following the area's First Annual Transportation Symposium, a one-day summit that gathered regional leaders to help improve transportation, OCT representatives have an outreach plan for the system.



OCT is working to get the community more involved through partnerships with businesses, military organizations and tourist destinations along U.S. Highway 98, according to Birchett,.



"We want to ensure that the entire community reaps the benefits of OCT, whether we're guaranteeing mobility to a resident, transporting customers to local businesses or clearing up traffic along Highway 98," Birchett said.



"As areas like Crestview and Niceville continue to grow, there is no doubt that the demand for these services will increase. Now more than ever, it's important that our community leaders show support for public transportation," said Jim Wood, Okaloosa-Walton Transportation Planning Organization's chairman and a Destin City Council member.



OCT provides fixed route and paratransit services through Crestview, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach and Destin.



See www.rideoct.org for more information on fares and paratransit services.