WINSTON SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The operation costs of city buses are rising, but the number of people riding city buses is falling. This has been the trend in Winston-Salem and Greensboro for the last decade.

It’s a worry for Winston-Salem City Council Member Robert Clark. He thinks the taxpayers may be paying more than necessary.

“I think we need to be looking at it over the next 12 months. So in the next year’s budget, we can hopefully do some improvements,” Clark said.

Between 2012 and 2022, 60% fewer people are riding Winston-Salem city buses, but the costs to operate them have gone up 40% more in that same time frame. And the projected ridership for next year is expected to be lower than this year.

There’s a similar trend in Greensboro.

In 2021, the Greensboro Transit Authority provided 1.9 million passenger trips. That was a dip from the 2020 numbers when they logged 2.7 million trips.

The numbers were much higher before the pandemic when the GTA was averaging 3 to 3.8 million trips per year. But still, it’s been years since they’ve come close to the highest numbers which were in 2014 with 4.6 million trips that year.

While Clark is concerned about the costs of running buses in his city, he isn’t suggesting the city of Winston-Salem do away with buses. He recognizes there are still people who rely on the bus system every day.

“The buses are very important, and the people that ride them do need them. But it’s not good for the city budget or for the environment to drive buses around town that are empty. I have several suggestions. I think we need to look at optimizing the routes. The routes that have a lot of riders should have more buses on them, and the routes that have virtually no riders need to be eliminated and consolidated with other routes,” Clark said.

A representative with the GTA says their operating costs have gone up as well, especially with the skyrocketing costs of fuel.

They get some relief with their growing fleet of electric vehicles. With those, they’ve been able to reduce their diesel consumption.