Nanaimo’s transit numbers bump up

Nanaimo Regional Transit is keeping busy providing commuters with an alternative mode of transportation.

Nanaimo Regional Transit is keeping busy providing commuters with an alternative mode of transportation.

The numbers are up about 10,000 riders per month from January to June last year, a trend that appears to be happening provincewide.

B.C. Transit’s 2011-12 numbers show ridership around the province increased 0.7 per cent from the previous year to 51.6 million trips. B.C. transit serves all of the province outside of Metro Vancouver.

Nanaimo Regional Transit’s fiscal year runs January to December, while B.C. Transit works April to March.

Daniel Pearce, Regional District of Nanaimo manager of transit operations, said in order to compare apples to apples, Nanaimo tracks its ridership monthly.

“Our tracking shows we’ve been averaging 205,000 riders per month, or a five-per cent increase,” he said.

The RDN began a 5,000-hour service expansion in March, realigning routes covering downtown, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and B.C. Ferries, but Pearce said the ridership increase also applies to January and February prior to the service increase.

“Looking at it monthly there are different trends. Some months are down and some are quite a bit higher. We do reduce service in the summer months because university students aren’t around and people are on vacation,” he said. “But the feedback we’re getting from the passengers and the drivers is that the buses are really busy. Before, the crowds would be on to one or two buses, but now they’re dispersed between different routes because they have more choices.”

B.C. Transit ridership numbers across Vancouver Island included 29 per cent for the Cowichan Valley-Victoria commuter service, 15 per cent for the Cowichan Valley and nine per cent for Campbell River.

Pearce said once the RDN has its year-end numbers, analysis should show a balanced increase.

“We always want to see ridership going up because that means transit service is doing what it needs to be doing,” he said. “We’re holding a public consultation process in the fall and are proposing another 5,000-hour service expansion for March 2013. Ultimately, getting people out of their cars is a benefit for Nanaimo and the RDN.”

Nanaimo Regional Transit operates from Cedar to Qualicum Beach and includes HandyDART custom service.

Cost to operate the service last year was $11.18 million. Funding included B.C. Transit cost-sharing, passenger fares, residential property taxes and bus advertising.