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Busing improvements recommended for Powell River Transit System

“It’s an ideal time for us to implement additional frequency and service span improvements into the system." ~ Rob Ringma, BC Transit senior manager, government relations
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OPTIONS PRESENTED: BC Transit is recommending expansion on two bus routes to provide improved service for riders, and has also announced an electronic fare strategy, which will provide riders more payment options.

BC Transit will be rolling out an electronic fare strategy with new pay options on all buses across the province.

“This is going to allow riders to be able to use either a mobile app, a credit card, debit card or reloadable wallet in order to pay,” said Rob Ringma, BC Transit senior manager, government relations, speaking at the September 20 City of Powell River committee of the whole meeting. “We are still going to accept cash. It will open up more options for people and increase the convenience of riding transit.

“We’re starting to roll that out in early 2023. It will be a great improvement over the current cash and pass system.”

BC Transit is also recommending two service expansion options for route one, which is Townsite/Wildwood and route two, which is the Grief Point run, that also align with the city’s transit vision and goals.

BC Transit planning manager Frank He said BC Transit identified two service expansion options for the current trip cycle. He said the first option would be to implement service span improvements on routes one and two from Monday to Thursday that will provide the same service levels as Fridays, which will also provide a better late night service. This would add 500 additional service hours during the course of a year.

He said option two would be to improve the frequency on route one from 8 am to 6 pm.

“Route one is our most demanding route,” said He. “This option will provide an approximate 30-minute frequency during the daytime.”

This would add 1,500 additional service hours during the course of a year.

According to figures from BC Transit, the estimated annual net municipal cost of the route one and two service span improvement in fiscal year 2023/2024 would be $28,183. The frequency improvements on route one would amount to an estimated $149,859. The frequency improvements on route one would require two additional buses.

Ringma said BC Transit was seeking a commitment via a memorandum of understanding to the expansion initiatives and cost. He added that BC Transit would be looking at implementing the expansions in September 2023, which aligns with the school year.

“It’s an ideal time for us to implement additional frequency and service span improvements into the system,” said Ringma.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said one of the things that will improve ridership is increased frequency. She said if a person lives in Wildwood and they wanted to go to town for an appointment, it’s a four-hour round trip to do it.

“If we want to provide people the opportunity to not need cars, we need to provide a reasonable transit service,” said Elliott. “You’ve recommended improving the frequency a little bit.”

Expansion cost

Ringma said BC Transit works out the base costs for these services and the municipal share is $178,000 for both. He said it is a good first step because there haven’t been transit expansions here since pre-COVID-19.

“Once we have an idea whether those initiatives are aligned with council’s goals, then we sit down with staff and we start to work out the nuts and bolts of how we take those hours and put them to best use,” said Ringma. “We’d be happy to report back to council on where that direction is headed.”

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman asked about electric buses. She asked if the city built the infrastructure to charge them, would they come?

Ringma said the low-carbon fleet program plans to convert 1,000 buses over the next 10 years to electric.

“We have actually committed to buying only electric buses starting in 2023; we have our first 10 electric buses arriving this year in Victoria,” said Ringma. “We need to invest in the charging infrastructure, get these buses on the road, and put them through the tests. We will continue to develop that program.

“I don’t have an answer for you for Powell River. It’s always good to hear from our local councils that are interested in electrification of their fleets. We’re right now starting to get into the logistics of how we deploy our strategy.”

Ringma said the cost of an electric bus is about twice that of a diesel-powered bus.

Councillor George Doubt made a motion that the transit improvement proposal be moved to city council on October 6. The motion was carried unanimously.

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