BC Transit looking for ways to improve Prince Rupert bus system

Prince Rupert city council gives go-ahead to BC Transit for their Service Review of the public transit system in the city.

  • Mar. 14, 2012 1:00 p.m.

At their meeting on Monday night, the Prince Rupert city council has given the go-ahead to BC Transit to begin their service review of the city’s bus system. The service review, which could take 30 weeks to complete, will have BC Transit going over practically every aspect of Prince Rupert’s public transportation set-up looking for inefficiencies, ways to cut costs, and improve customer satisfaction.

“As part of that, we develop a Service Review Plan, and that plan are your objectives for the review. What is the scope of the review? What do we want to see? Do you want to see more service? Is there a part of the city that is not being served? Is there a part of the city that historically used to be important but has become less important, and now other areas are more important than in the past,” Todd Dupuis, the senior regional transit manager for BC Transit told the City Council.

Once the community’s needs and objectives for its transit system are established, the review can get begin in earnest. When it finishes, BC Transit will present recommendations for changes to the bus system to council, who will be responsible for deciding if they should be implemented or not.

“Once the service review is complete, we then make as an entity a series of recommendations to the city. But it’s not a finalized document it’s a kind of dialogue that says ‘here’s what we think, how do you feel about our recommendations?’ Then we work back and forth about what you want to see, then we finalize our report with recommendations, then it’s given to yourselves for approval. It’s up to you to say ‘yes, we want to implement those changes,” Dupuis told council.

But before any of that can get underway, the city council needed to take the first step, which was to approve the memorandum of understanding that committed themselves and BC Transit to actually going ahead with the review. This is what they did on monday night.

According to Dupuis and the BC Transit data he brought with him to show to the council, Prince Rupert’s is already fairly efficient and cost-effective when compared to other municipal bus systems of a similar size, despite being one of the oldest systems in the province.

Approximately 370,000 passengers use the regular busses in the city every year and is projected to top 400,000 in 2012. Approximately 5,000 people every year used the city’s HandyDART bus service meant for those with limited mobility who can’t make their way to a regular bus stop.

It costs the city $91.20 to run the normal buses in Prince Rupert for an hour and the busses run about 9,900 operational hours every year, with an average of 37 people riding the busses every hour. This is well below the highest operating costs for a bus system of a similar size in BC, which is $137.00.

The city recovers about 32 per cent of their cost of running the busses by collecting fares from passengers, this is the second-highest cost recovery rate in BC (again, when compared to similarly sized bus systems).

“Your system is very efficient,” says Dupuis.

“The best performing system in the Province is in Victoria and it recovers about 49 per cent, and that’s a major urban centre, with 100,000 rides a day.”

The HandyDART service costs the city about $50.61 an hour to run, which is one of the lowest operating costs in the province for this kind of service. The cost recovery from fares is also very low, only about 5.5 per cent. But Dupuis says that this is normal considering that the HandyDART service takes much longer than conventional busses and can only take very few passengers an hour.

“The driver has to get out of the bus, walk to the front door, helps the person to the bus if they’re mobile or pushes their wheelchair, lowers the ramp, puts the wheelchair on, wheel’s them inside, attaches the securing straps to the chair, goes back to their seat and drives again. So its normal to only have three or four passengers an hour on a well-performing system.”

Dupuis also says that there will be opportunities for public consultation on what people would like to see changed or stay the same about the bus system during the weeks the review will take to run its course. Although, he didn’t indicate when this will happen.

Prince Rupert’s bus system is operated by a private contractor, FirstCanada ULC, who’s 7 year contract is over in a year’s time at the end of March in 2013, but it could be extended for twice for a year at a time if need be.