On Monday morning, city council approved a recommendation from the transit authority to develop another route that would service the areas between 13 Street and the two malls on Eighth Street, mainly to reach the Senior Citizens Hall, seniors homes and schools in that area. The route would also provide two-way service between the Co-Op Mall and the Dawson Mall.
The change is proposed to address concerns that came forward after BC Transit implemented major, cost-saving changes to routes earlier this year that resulted in longer routes and the need for often lengthy transfer times between routes. The changes also eliminated a route between the Co-op Mall and the Multiplex because of low ridership.
“That was a serious change in the system, and the impact of that resulted in the City, BC Transit and the operating company receiving quite a lot of complaints, a lot specifically from seniors,” said Johann van Schaik, temporary regional manager in the North for BC Transit, as he made a presentation to council on Monday morning.
He said the goals of the proposed new route would be to maintain existing ridership and regain some of the riders lost after the changes were implemented in April.
The new route would not result in any changes to the existing Northside route, but the Southside Route would return to its previous form before the route changes were made in April. It will still route past the high school, hospital and seniors’ hall on every trip. School trips will route past Canalta Elementary School, with all other trips alternating between serving the Multiplex and the Canalta area. A new bus shelter is proposed for the corner of Fourth Street and 122 Avenue to service both the front and back entrances of the Multiplex.
The existing service requires approximately 6,800 annual service hours and two buses in service from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. The new route would run every 35 minutes from 9:20 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10:50 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Saturdays. The existing routes would also be expanded to provide a longer service day from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays in order to increase ridership.
The changes would result in a total increase of 2,300 annual service hours. Van Schaik said after factoring in $150,000 in fixed cost savings that were negotiated with the operator and will be implemented in February, 2012, the net cost to taxpayers to implement the proposed short-term changes would be an additional $5,000 over the nearly $593,000 taxpayers already pay for transit service annually.
Van Schaik recommended that public information sessions be hosted in the city well in advance of the anticipated implementation of the route changes so that riders can have input and remain informed. Those sessions would be hosted by Todd Dupuis, who will be taking over as regional manager.
Besides adding a new route to address service issues in the short-term, BC Transit is also recommending looking at options in the mid-term that would look to existing long and circuitous one-way loops with direct two-way routes that link major destinations to reduce trip times. Van Schaik said the goal would be to make the bus service a more attractive option for new riders and therefore make the service more cost-effective in the future. However, he said the trade-offs would be that new bus shelters would be required and the changes would undoubtedly impact existing users.
He included some examples of more direct routing options in his presentation, but noted those changes would only occur after extensive consultation and input from riders.
A full version of his presentation, including a map of the proposed route changes, has been attached below.