People in Vernon are hopping on the buses.
Vernon council was given data by BC Transit senior manager of government relations Chris Fudge Monday morning that shows transit ridership in Greater Vernon is doing well.
“Ridership shows a very positive trend line in terms of performance,” said Fudge, who said in the 2018-19 data year there was a 7.6 per cent increase in ridership over the previous year with more than 500,000 rides in the fixed routes and conventional sides. The tier average in similar sized systems in the province is 414,000, so Vernon is well above that average.
It’s also up on the provincial increase of six per cent ridership growth.
In April 2018, 7,000 additional service hours were added to Vernon Transit and a new high frequency route – Route 9, North End – was introduced which has proven very popular with bus riders. It has the third-highest rider frequency in the Vernon system.
Also helping the numbers were extended service hours on select routes, adding two new buses to the fleet and simplifying the fare structure.
Fudge said some recommended changes to Route 7 Okanagan Landing and Route 8 Bella Vista Road did not move forward due to mixed reaction from the public.
“We are continuing to gather data on the performance of those routes and we will looked at making revised recommendations in the near future,” he said.
Revenue generated in Vernon in 2018-19 increased by $100,000, which is $15,000 higher than BC Transit’s budget estimate, and the revenue helps offset the local share of costs.
The UBCO Connector service, provided through the Regional District of North Okanagan, and which allows North Okanagan students and work commuters the chance to take the bus, continues to be a great success story.
Fudge said last year 123,000 people were serviced by the route, up 25 per cent in ridership from the previous year.
“We are now looking at expansion options for that route,” said Fudge, including kicking about the ideas of adding Sunday service, removing seasonal service reduction and increasing Saturday service.
A recent delegation to Vernon council asked that the city push for electric buses, and Fudge said his company has lots of interest in terms of electric bus service, and that more information will be coming from BC Transit shortly.
“We are looking at the pathway to electrification,” he said. “It starts with research and trials, then looking at smaller fleet deployment and then full transition down the road. These are all things we’re looking at in terms of our future strategy.”