Representatives from B.C. Transit presented recommendations for Cranbrook's transit system in a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 11.
They looked at previous reviews done in 2001, 2004 and 2011. They compared Cranbrook's performance with other peer systems and sought input from stakeholders, passengers and residents. They used that to develop some potential service options.
Alison McDonald, transportation planner for B.C. Transit, said the current system has many qualities that make it easy to understand. One of those is = that buses leave at easy to remember times such as 12, 12:15, 12:30 and 12:45.
She said time transfers are also a benefit. It's when all buses leave at the same time enabling passengers to change to another bus at that time to complete their journey.
“Ridership on the system is strong and is continuing to increase,” she said. “The transit system performs very well when compared to similar size transit systems in western B.C.”
She said that ridership has dramatically increased since the system was introduced 13 years ago and is now 2.5 times what it was then.
McDonald said compared to other peer services in B.C., Cranbrook’s system costs are the lowest from the group they compared.
Costs recovery is higher than average, which she said was partly due to relatively high fares in Cranbrook.
Riders per hour, at an average of 20, is about the same as other systems compared.
“So overall it is performing very well,” she said.
One of the recommendations is two-way service into Slaterville.
“We propose another two trips per day, one in mid-morning and one in mid-afternoon to reduce that interval inbetween trips,” she said.
The change would add 260 additional service hours and a cost of $10,000 to the city and $9,600 to B.C. Transit. It would also add 800 riders.
The service would be achieved by adding Route 3 and Route 7 on Sundays to one route, and by reducing services frequency on Route 5 College.
“Currently it runs every 30 minutes, but due to low ridership, we propose scaling it back to 60-minute services, again that would be on Sunday,” she said.
That change would save an estimated 380 hours a year, but lose an average of 200 rides per year. The change would save the city $14,600 and B.C. Transit $12,900.
McDonald suggested those savings could pay for the extra service to Slaterville and also could be used in other various ways, such as increasing evening service on weekdays by 30 minutes, adding one hour on Fridays and Saturdays, adding two hours of service on Saturdays only, increasing service frequency during the day on Sundays, or beginning service earlier on weekdays.
She said their vehicle fleet composition and the addition of smaller buses could be looked at, but “during the morning and afternoon peaks, some of the routes are standing room only, with the influx of school students.”
Mayor Wayne Stetski brought up frustrations he’s seen and heard about lack of ridership.
“If I could wave a magic wand around transit in Cranbrook I would replace almost all, if not all, with handy-transit sized vehicles,” Stetski said, adding that he often sees the buses empty or sparsely populated.
McDonald noted that there are times when buses do run empty, but repeated that there are times when they are “standing room only.” She said it’s difficult to have one fleet for the peak period and one for the low hours.
The mayor also suggested signs on individual bus stops that show the schedule.
Coun. Gerry Warner went further with comments about ridership.
“For 13 years I’ve looked at the buses every single day — I monitor them,” he said. “The number of times that I’ve seen a bus with double digits, 10 or more people, in 13 years, I could number on one hand.”
Warner proposed developing a new system in partnership with B.C. Transit that could be used as a pilot project for other similar small urban communities in B.C.
Daniel Pizarro, senior regional transit manager, said B.C. Transit monitors ridership through electronic fare boxes on the buses, as well as counts. He also said that the cost of having smaller buses isn’t that big of a savings, since you still have to pay driver wages, maintenance and fuel costs.
Tania Wegwitz, who is manager of operational planning for B.C. Transit, said the models used in B.C. differ greatly from the rest of the country and B.C. Transit carries more riders at a lower charge than many other bus services.
“We use all different kinds of models to deliver transit, we use taxi companies, we partner with Greyhound where it makes sense,” Wegwitz said.
She said that Cranbrook’s service is on an upward trend.
She also noted for every dollar cut from transit, the municipality only actually saves 33 cents, since B.C. Transit pays 47 cents of every dollar and passengers pay for 20 cents of every dollar. So that part of the funding disappears as it is cut.
“However if you increase ridership, every dollar in additional revenue, the city keeps,” she said.