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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 30, 2011
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IN 2012!

New Year’s Eve Service: Giving Back to the Community

New Year’s Eve is famously a night when people may overindulge and might not want to drive themselves home after celebrating. That’s where public transportation comes in: agencies throughout the U.S.—such as these listed below—are providing free or reduced-price rides, extending service hours, and operating specialized routes to make sure revelers find their way home safely.

In New York City, where millions gather to watch the ball drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the agencies of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are making preparations to cope with the crowds. MTA New York City Transit will close subway entrances in the Times Square area and recommends that customers travel to stations at 57th or 59th Street and walk south to reach the square. MTA Long Island Rail Road and MTA Metro-North Railroad also will provide additional service from the afternoon of Dec. 31 through the early morning of Jan. 1.

Miller Lite Free Rides™ is working with public transit agencies and local beer distributors in cities including Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Madison, WI, to offer free bus rides on New Year’s Eve and into the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The Milwaukee County Transit System and Waukesha Metro Transit in Waukesha, WI, are providing free rides in the Milwaukee region for the 24th year. Participants in this program will receive a “Restaurants Rewarding Responsibility” coupon for participating area restaurants.

Throughout the Twin Cities area, Metro Transit and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in Burnsville, MN, are operating free beginning at 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve. Partygoers can ride free until midnight on all Metro Transit bus routes, Hiawatha light rail, and Northstar commuter rail, and after midnight on 25 bus routes and the Hiawatha Line.

This is the 18th year for the free rides provided by Metro Transit in Madison, available between 7 p.m. Dec. 31 and 3:30 a.m. Jan. 1. Riders can plan their travel online, by using Google Maps on a computer or mobile device, or by calling the agency’s customer service line.

The Miller Lite Free Rides program is a collaborative effort bringing together transit systems, community organizations, law enforcement agencies, civic organizations, and others to help keep streets safe and prevent drunk driving on major holidays and throughout the year. More information is available here.

Continuing a tradition that began in 2002, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in Orange, CA, will operate free bus rides between 6 p.m. Dec. 31 and 2:30 a.m. Jan. 1. This program provided 15,540 free rides last year and more than 102,000 boardings since its inception.

“We encourage those out celebrating New Year’s Eve in Orange County to leave behind their cars and enjoy a free ride on the bus,” said OCTA Chair Patricia Bates. “Knowing that an OCTA bus is there to get residents home safely is something that can give everyone peace of mind this holiday season.”

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District is extending its New Year’s Eve hours of service until 3 a.m.—three hours later than the usual closing time—and adding special service into and out of downtown San Francisco--beginning at 8 p.m.--for people wishing to attend the annual fireworks show.

Elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay area, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in San Jose will offer free bus and light rail service beginning at 7 p.m. Dec. 31 and ending at 3:49 a.m. New Year’s Day. Caltrain commuter rail will also operate free after 11 p.m. on New Year's Eve, as well as adding four extra post-midnight trains. The San Francisco Municipal Railway will provide complimentary light rail and bus rides from 8 p.m. Dec. 31 until 6 a.m. Jan. 1, along with special Muni Metro service well into the early morning of New Year’s Day.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) encourages people heading to New Year’s Eve celebrations to ride for one penny on all buses and trains from 10 p.m. New Year’s Eve to 4 a.m. New Year’s Day. CTA emphasizes that customers should not use their farecards during this time because they will be charged the full fare and refunds are not available.

In Des Moines, IA, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority will operate special service on the D-Line Downtown Shuttle, which normally operates only on weekdays. The free shuttle will run every 10 minutes from 11 a.m. Dec. 31 to 2 a.m. Jan. 1, serving popular downtown destinations including major hotels.

Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon begins free operation of all buses and MAX light rail at 8 p.m. New Year’s Eve. The MAX Blue, Green, and Yellow lines will remain in service until around 3 a.m. New Year’s Day, while shuttle buses will connect to Portland International Airport after the MAX Red Line shuts down for the night.
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