So, to help turn local bus service into a power tool for economic development--and this is not counting its anti-pollution and traffic safety improving effects--subsidize it even more.
In fact, drop the whole (rather expensive) exercise of collecting fares. Instead: increase the frequency of service, add more routes, extend hours of operation--and offer free rides for everyone, all the time.
It might work, at least according to this article which notes what a "distinct chorus" of transit advocates are suggesting.
Of course, we'd probably need to get the state to start chipping in on the subsidy front, push for some rejiggering of federal transportation aid, and start considering local subsidies as investments in economic development...but all this might be doable if cities--including small ones like Athens--started pushing more aggressively and intelligently for their interests.(Via Planetizen.)