New ferry route, transit expansion leads to increase in ridership

NANAIMO – Regional District of Nanaimo transit has seen more people taking the bus over the past year.

Regional District of Nanaimo transit has seen more people taking the bus over the past year.

According B.C. Transit’s 2013-14 annual report, the number of passenger trips in the region rose to 2,796,621 in 2013-14 from 2,657,328 the year previous, an increase of 5.3 per cent. Daniel Pearce, regional district transit operations manager, pointed to expanded service as the reason.

Five thousand service hours were implemented in March, according to Pearce, and improved coverage was provided to make it easier for commuters to get around town. Services were enhanced to Vancouver Island University and Parksville and a new route with service to Departure Bay ferry terminal was added in the form of the No. 25 B.C. ferry shuttle route.

There had been requests to improve service to the ferries over the last number of years, said Pearce.

“What we were trying to do is establish just a base route connecting to the ferries and really connecting some of our exchange points, so the Country Club [Centre] exchange as well as the downtown exchange. And with that, we’re trying to establish kind of a foundation for a route and then over the next number of years, expand that and make it an even stronger service,” Pearce said.

While Nanaimo was listed amongst the communities experiencing growth in the report, its 5.3-per cent was lowest in the group – Summerland saw the most with 33.4 per cent while Comox and Cowichan valleys saw growth in the seven-per cent range.

Pearce explained that 5.3 per cent for transit over a year period is strong compared to other areas across the province. Ridership is strong in Nanaimo he said.

“I think it’s doing very well and I think the biggest trend is that we want to continue seeing increases each year and really trying to make sure that people understand those sustainable transportation options to make it easier for people to get around outside their vehicle,” said Pearce.