Starting April 2, buses will roll later into the evening and on Saturdays throughout Jackson County.

Starting April 2, buses will roll later into the evening and on Saturdays throughout Jackson County.

In most cities served by Rogue Valley Transportation District, buses will keep running until 8 or 8:30 p.m. weekdays rather than stopping at 6:30. That, district officials say, will better meet the needs of students, workers who get off late and those who want to run errands.

"We're expecting to see a boost in ridership," said Paige Townsend, senior planner at RVTD.

She said her organization hopes to announce a couple of contracts with major local employers who are considering purchasing bus passes for employees, Townsend said.

Rogue Community College has a contract in which it pays $1.95 a month for each student.

RVTD has received a $983,052 federal air-quality grant that will help pay for the expanded service. Other grants and contingency dollars will make up the difference for a program estimated to cost nearly $2.1 million over a three-year period.

"We are hoping we see a surge in employers interested in the bus pass program," Townsend said. "That will help sustain the program past the three years."

The new bus schedules should help businesses that stay open later and employees working until later in the evening, she said.

Saturday service has also been added, with many routes running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on that day.

The transit district estimates that ridership, which currently runs 1.1 million a year, should see an increase of 285,000 under the new program, Townsend said.

About 40 percent of the ridership is on Route 10, between Ashland and Medford, which has a bus running every 20 minutes during peak hours.

In recent years, Southern Oregon University has offered more evening and night classes in Medford at the Higher Education Center. However, many of the classes don't finish until 9 p.m., after the buses stop running.

Fares will remain the same at $2 for regular fares and $1 for those younger than 18 or older than 62.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.