February 12, 2013 - 4:50 PM
By Jennifer Stahn
Kamloops Transit has grown substantially over the past year, adding 7,500 additional hours of service and seeing a four per cent increase in total rides over the previous year for a total of 3.6 million trips, all in addition to the completion of the new transit facility on Ord Road.
Erin Felker, transportation planner for Kamloops, says the city is looking at enlarging this year's budget because of increased service on several routes across the city as well as the new building. She also hopes councillors will take a look at expanding custom bus services (handyDART) by next fall and further increases to conventional transit the following year, for a total of 8,500 additional hours and four new buses by 2016.
Felker notes BC Transit needs an 18 month lead time for vehicle procurement, which means “council needs to assess for 2014 now.” Council offered up many questions for Felker at a recent meeting, but one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that Kamloops residents were being offered a great service at a low cost.
In order to receive that low cost the city subsidizes at a rate of $1 per ride and some companies even offer further subsidies to employees through the ProPass program. The city also helps cover the costs of running public transit in Kamloops to the tune of just over $16 million - 12 per cent of the city's 2013 budget. That cost covers a total of 63 buses, 15 routes and 129,100 hours.
Felker notes BC Transit is looking at other revenue options to avoid having to raise costs at the taxpayer or rider level. She says historically a cost recovery of 33 per cent is considered doing well in BC and as a high performer in it's tier, Kamloops is typically within that range.
Other changes to encourage ridership include a new smartphone app created locally that offers route information and the Google Maps transit layer, which can help users plan a route by simply putting in an origin and a destination. While both are still fairly new in Kamloops the feedback was been positive, according to Felker.
While many people support transit and rely on it almost exclusively, others are upset the city continues to spend taxpayer money on a service that not everyone uses. As one downtown resident noted last week the system is inefficient and he feels the taxpayers are not getting value for the money put in to keep public transit alive in Kamloops.
It seems more people do appreciate and support the city spending money on transit though. The city has the highest reported rider per capita of all tier one communities and free transit is provided for seven annual events in the city, including Canada Day where more than 7,400 rides were provided free of charge.
Hundreds of university and high school students depend on transit on a daily basis to get to and from school, while more than 120 employees are signed up with the ProPass program. A short bus ride across the city is all it can take to realize the full value of transit. Whether to get to work, school, shopping or just to visit with a friend across town most of those who use transit praise the service, even if they feel a little more tweaking of routes needs to be done.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013