The agency said the elimination of fares was supposed to help community members save money at a time of rising gas prices.
The free-ride program was supposed to end in early September, but the RTA last month announced it would last through the rest of this year.
The transit agency for years has suspected that reduced weekend service was making it difficult for people to ride the bus to work or for other essential trips on Saturdays and Sundays, Ruzinsky said.
Most RTA trips are work-related, and many people’s work schedules nowadays include weekend shifts, he said.
The RTA has made service improvements that it wants to promote through free weekend rides, and the agency has switched to a model where all routes run the same schedule seven days a week, Ruzinsky said.
Average Sunday ridership in August was about 11,370 people, which was up more than 70% from May.
Average Saturday ridership last month was up nearly 50% from May.
The cost of offering free rides is pretty minimal, since most riders take advantage of fare capping through the Tapp Pay system, Ruzinsky said.
“Any losses from riders who pay daily should be recovered by increased long-term ridership gains,” he said.
Weekday ridership has improved since dropping during the pandemic. RTA ridership was up 19% in August, compared to the prior month, the agency said.
Christopher Stewart, 60, said he receives a limited number of free bus passes from the Gettysburg Shelter for Men for appointments and other purposes.
But he said he’s glad he can ride the bus for free on the weekends, because during the week it costs $4 per day to ride, which can add up quickly.
“It’s helpful,” said Stewart, who just recently relocated to Dayton after living 20 years in Maryland.