Ridership has doubled in the months since buses began shuttling people between Nanaimo and Duncan this past spring.
Seth Wright, government relations manager for B.C. Transit, Regional District of Nanaimo Transit funding partner, gave a presentation on Route 70 Nanaimo-North Cowichan Express to RDN’s transit select committee Tuesday, Sept. 20, and said the number of riders nearly doubled from the first trip, on March 27, till Aug. 14.
“It’s worth noting that service was introduced at the end of B.C. Transit’s fiscal year, when there was a window of opportunity to introduce service. That’s not necessarily when from a marketing or ridership perspective we would’ve introduced service on a route that would benefit from [schools], but we had that opportunity…” Wright said. “Over the summer we actually saw pretty good growth in ridership starting around 50 rides per day to now approaching close to 100 rides per day.”
In terms of weekday trips, the southbound route saw the highest ridership at 2:16 p.m. with nine people, while the northbound route saw the highest at 3:33 p.m. with eight people. On Saturdays, the highest boardings, 12 passengers, occurred at 11:09 a.m. southbound and nine passengers at 12:26 p.m. northbound.
Approximately 27 riders on average boarded the southbound bus at downtown Nanaimo and an average of 11 disembarked at terminus stop at Village Green Mall in Duncan. An average of 15 boarded the northbound bus at the Duncan mall, while an average of 28 got off at the final stop at downtown Nanaimo, according to B.C. Transit numbers.
Wright said B.C. Transit is generally satisfied with ridership thus far.
“Ridership on the NCX is performing better than some comparable regional commuter routes across the province in its early days,” he said. “I think that there were a few analyses performed on ridership of commuter routes and what we expected on the NCX and some were based on where we expect it to be in three to five years and some expected it to perform a little bit weaker in the first year, so it’s outperforming our expectations.”
With more students at Vancouver Island University expected during fall semester, B.C. Transit expects those numbers to increase, according to Wright.
A more fulsome report is in the works with RDN staff, with recommendations and analysis on where they see the route going, to be presented to the RDN at a future meeting.
The route is cost-shared between RDN and Cowichan Valley Regional District.