Proposed transit fare increase in transit report

Lisa Goudy
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Mark Sture, transit manager, presents the internal transit report to council at the Nov. 25, 2013 meeting at city hall.

The transit department is recommending route changes and user fare increases.

Two years after council requested the internal transit report, Mark Sture, transit manager, presented the report to council at Monday’s meeting.

It came forward with a number of recommendations and council referred those to budget committee for further deliberations. Among those included a proposed fare increase from $2.25 to $2.50 as of Jan. 1 and the addition of new routes. Currently the city has four routes and seven buses.

“There are a number of people in the city that have no other choice but to take transit,” said Sture. “We have people who take transit by choice and would rather not drive and this becomes more prevalent as the weather gets worse.”

The report said the closer the transit route is to the start and end points of a trip and the more frequent the schedule, the more likely a person is to use public transit.

Sture said he’d recommend increasing the route length from 30 minutes to 40 minutes.

“Ideally I’d like to see a bus on the route every 20 minutes, but that’s going to require double the number of buses, double the number of staff and at $450,000 for a bus I’m not holding my breath for next year, but council needs to be aware these things are coming,” said Sture.

“It’s not just the infrastructure that needs money. It’s other areas of the city that need money as well.”

The average ridership total for all four city routes is 1,100 in the morning peak hour from 7:15 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.; 495 in the mid-day hour from 10:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; 1,065 in the afternoon peak hour from 2:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.; and 87 passengers in the evening from 6:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.

On average, the day of the week that has the highest number of passengers is Thursday at 1,329 riders. The second highest day of the week for passengers is Monday at 1,217. The lowest number of passengers using the transit system is on Saturday with an average of 562 passengers.

One of the recommendations in the report was to decrease mid-day service by 50 per cent to provide evening service five days a week.

Sture said ridership numbers have been based on fare revenue for the past few years. That includes looking at the number of tickets sold, the number of passes sold and the cash taken.

“We’re still in the range of 400,000 passengers a year and it’s stayed that way for quite some time,” he said.

From 2006 to 2012, revenue has gone down by an average of 0.1 per cent, from $337,074 in 2006 to $336,748 in 2012.

The peak revenue year was in 2010 with revenues totaling $373,452. For the first five months of 2013, revenue was $50,000 higher than the same period in 2012.

Sture added the conventional transit is running at a 35 per cent cost recovery from what it costs the department to run the service. He said it’s a “realistic” figure.

“Transit is not a profit center. It’s very much in the same light as a lot of the parks and (recreation services): It’s a community service offered to the residents and it’s there to benefit everybody,” said Sture. “It does cost subsidies. The cost differential between what we make and what it costs us, has to come from somewhere and it comes from taxation.”

From 2006 to 2012, the transit system has seen a 35.6 per cent increase in municipal funding and subsidy. In 2011 the funding was $714,585 and in 2012 it was $816,695. Back in 2006, it was $602,309.

Sture added there hasn’t been a fare increase since 2011.

“We never want to see that go up, but our costs have gone up like everybody else’s,” he said. “There is a report coming through the system to council on a fare increase, a separate report, but the report does recommend that cash fare for adults go up by about 25 cents and all other fares go up in the same realm.”

He said for every 10 per cent fare increase, there would be a decrease of three or four per cent of ridership, but a six per cent increase in revenue.

As for special needs para-transit service, he said the transit system is “running at capacity.”

“We’re turning people away. We’re running service. We’re pushing our drivers to the limit in terms of running across town, trying to pick people up and getting to the next destination,” said Sture. “The drivers are feeling the stress and in the office we’re feeling the stress because we don’t want to turn anybody down, but the reality is we don’t have the capability, we don’t have the buses or the drivers in order to provide the service that’s requested.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

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