Local leaders have been pointing to the ridership trends lately as evidence that the new service has proven successful.
"It shows that our community as a whole is trying to help a population that would seek to ride the bus, whether they would have to or whether they would choose to," said Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham. "We as a community have made that choice, the conscious choice to provide that service to increase quality of life."
The service is provided through a partnership between the Winchester Board of Commissioners, the Clark County Fiscal Court and Foothills Community Action Partnership.
Last summer, city and county officials agreed to split a monthly subsidy of about $4,750 to help fund the program. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., also helped secure funding to purchase a bus.
Since it opened, monthly ridership has never dipped below 468. It peaked in July 2009, providing 879 rides.
"The transit was well-received in Winchester and Clark County," said Melissa Gross, Foothills program developer. "There was an acceptance of the bus service right away."
Gross said ridership includes a diverse group. Many riders use the bus to travel to work or school, and older riders travel in the middle of the day for shopping, doctors visits and social engagements, she said.
Tickets cost $1, or riders can buy a book of 10 for $7. Passes are good for a full day.
The routes, which run six times a day, include 27 stops, ranging from Community Services to Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and riders can add a stop by calling Foothills 24 hours in advance.
The most popular stops are Walmart, Kroger Plaza, the Brown Proctor Apartments and the Clark County Library.
LaBona said he and his wife ride about four times each week and enjoy the friendliness of the drivers.
While they use the bus for shopping or trips to the doctor's office and library, LaBona said the couple also ride the bus just to get out of the house.
"Basically, anything we need," he said.
Over the last year, some have criticized the service, arguing that it is an expensive luxury that rarely gets used. However, officials have said ridership numbers refute those claims.
Mayor Ed Burtner said providing the service particularly helps low-income residents.
"I think it has a beneficial effect for those individuals in the community who do not have transportation and have perhaps had to rely upon friends or some other means of getting around," he said. "I think it has been a good service for the community overall."
A similar bus service also began in Winchester in September 2008, transporting commuters from Walmart to several stops in Lexington.
Branham worked with Foothills to organize the commuter routes over several months in 2008 after residents complained of the high cost of traveling to work places in Lexington. According to Foothills, the routes transport 30 to 35 people each day.
Branham said attitudes shifted once gas prices arose above $4 per gallon last year. People are much more conscious about how much gasoline they use, he said.
"There are a lot of benefits," Branham said of the buses. "I truly believe that the majority of Winchester and Clark County want to provide this opportunity."
LaBona pointed out that he doesn't even pay vehicle taxes anymore.
"I cry every time my son whines about the gas prices," LaBona joked. "More people should ride this bus."
Contact Mike Wynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.