The City of Prince Rupert recently approved BC Transit route changes, but will wait until later this month to decide on potential fare alterations.
The approved route changes include reallocating service to provide more trips to the transition society and adding an additional school special, as well as eliminating a section of the Crestview run. Modifications will be implemented on May 1.
“These service changes are no-cost options. It’s not going to make any difference to the cost, it’s just providing more effective and efficient service,” said Gina Curran, senior regional transit manager for BC Transit, during a presentation to council on Jan. 12.
Service to the North Coast Transition Society’s facility on Park Avenue will be provided on a new combo route that begins as Route 54, the Westview run, and ends as Route 52, Summit. This will be done by redistributing service from low-volume Westview trips and one from the Summit run.
Instead of continuing down Second Avenue West, the bus will turn down 11th Street and onto Park Avenue to serve the transition society. The new combo, Route 56, will then turn into a portion of the Summit route, which is highly
Route 53, or Crestview, will be altered slightly. Instead of turning onto the loop, buses will go down the straight portion of Crestview Drive, with BC Transit promising to erect a shelter for commuters.
“There’s a big loop in the route and it’s wrecking the leaf springs in the buses,” Curran explained.
Additionally, the 3:05 p.m. Crestview trip will be converted into an afternoon school special to ease capacity issues on the existing Seal Cove Special trip.
“Currently there’s one bus that goes past both the middle school and the high school. It gets overloaded and it’s becoming quite a challenge, so we’re proposing a small change that would split those passengers into two separate bus routes and service two separate neighbourhoods,” Curran said.
By having both the 3:05 p.m. Crestview and Seal Cove buses go past Prince Rupert Middle School and Charles Hays Secondary School, students could take either bus based on their destination neighbourhood, spreading the load of the two schools.
The 3:05 Seal Cove Special will offer more direct service for passengers by removing the Immanuel and India Streets portion of the trip.
While council unanimously approved route adjustments, many councils had concerns with the proposed fare increases.
BC Transit recommends municipalities review their fares every three years, with the last changes in Prince Rupert occurring in January 2012.
BC Transit is advising the city to charge $2 for all transit users, aside from children four and under who ride for free.
“That way it’s one coin, easy for drivers, easy for the passengers. Doesn’t matter where you get on and off, it’s two bucks,” said Curran.
But Coun. Joy Thorkelson took issue with the fact that Port Edward transit users would be paying the same amount.
“Why would somebody pay the same amount to ride for five blocks in Prince Rupert as somebody who’s going to go eight miles out to Port Edward?” she questioned.
Curran said 25 cents is a minimal increase and dealing with one coin would be easier for all. Coun. Wade Niesh, a former BC Transit bus driver in Prince Rupert, agreed it would simplify the system.
“If you see somebody throwing two bucks in all the time, it’s easy to keep track of as a driver. Especially when you have 40 kids walk onto a bus at the same time,” he said.
A number of changes to discount prices were also presented, with Curran saying Prince Rupert’s fees are below guidelines.
BC Transit is recommending the cost of monthly passes for seniors and students go up by $2.50, with monthly passes for adults remaining the same, suggesting to lower the cost of semester passes by $1.75.
The proposal included charging adults $18 for tickets, up from $15.75, and $15 for seniors and students, up from $13.50. Another recommendation is to decrease the price of adult day passes by 50 cents and increase the cost for seniors and students by 24 cents.
The biggest increase BC Transit is recommending is to yearly passes for seniors. Currently $12, the agency is suggesting the city charge $45 for a year pass, which concerned Coun. Barry Cunningham.
“You could get a larger drop off in ridership in that particular group because that’s quite an increase … and you’re talking about a group that’s on a fixed income,” Cunningham said.
Thorkelson noted ridership dropped the last time fares went up, but Curran said passenger numbers balanced back within a year.
BC Transit estimates the fare changes would create a nine-per-cent increase in revenue and a six per cent decrease in ridership, or $36,000 in extra revenue and $20,000 lost due to ridership decline.
The City of Prince Rupert currently recovers between 28 to 30 per cent of costs from the transit system, which is high according to Curran.
Council will consider changes to fares at the Jan. 26 council meeting.