Public transit usage in the Kootenay Boundary has dropped, prompting a recent attempt at bolstering the service with added routes and stronger regional ties.
BC Transit revealed Monday that the Kootenay Boundary Transit System’s ridership was down 4.8 per cent in the last year, according to figures pulled from their annual report.
The drop corresponded to a School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) re-structuring of routes and expansion of coverage, said Meribeth Burton, BC Transit’s corporate spokesperson.
“So there was overlapping of transit services between us and the school district because we used to provide trips for students,” she said.
In 2011-2012 Kootenay Boundary Transit had a total of 286,190 rider trips, over 13,000 less than in 2010-2011 when there were 300,551 rider trips.
As a result, BC Transit planners worked with Trail and other local governments last winter to find some efficiency in the delivery of the transit system.
In March service improvements in the region were implemented, including extending the hours of early evening runs, more trips during the workday along the corridor, and introducing Friday late night runs on the most populated routes.
Since March ridership has risen, on average, two per cent each month in the Kootenay Boundary.
The next task will be to further structure the regional transit system to entice a new group of riders into regular usage of the service, said Burton.
“We need to look at how we make it so (transit) is really efficient and attractive for the broadest group as possible so our numbers aren’t dependent on one ridership base like students,” she said.
Some of those answers lie within the regional transit committee—struck earlier this year between the major players in West Kootenay transit delivery—with regional fare structures and better connectivity.
The regional committee was intended to bring integration to nine separate operating systems, including the one serving Greater Trail.
By September the committee will develop a single schedule system and regional fare structure, creating a unified regional system whereby a person who boards a bus in Trail could travel through Castlegar to Nelson having only paid once.
The regional committee will help unite service between Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, Kaslo, Nakusp and the Slocan Valley
In contrast to the Kootenay Boundary Transit System’s woes is the success enjoyed by its neighbour, Castlegar Transit. The service saw a 61 per cent rise in ridership, the highest gain in the province.
However, expanding the service from one to six routes within the city helped pad up the numbers, said Burton, since there was only a corresponding revenue rise of 20 per cent.
“It changed the way they do boarding, the way the whole system worked,” she said. “But even a revenue jump of 20 per cent is phenomenal.”
Funding for the Kootenay Boundary Transit System is cost shared between the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and BC Transit.
Decisions about fares, routes and service levels are made by the regional district based on information and planning from BC Transit.
The transit systems are operated by Trail Transit Services Inc.
According to their annual report, as of March 31 BC Transit served over 1.5 million British Columbians at a cost of $262 million. This ridership was supported by a fleet of 1,001 BC Transit vehicles, the 19th largest fleet in North America.