EDITORIAL: Bus benefits need a push

Transit must do more to convince public to get on board.

Improvements to local transit service have resulted in a small increase in ridership over the past year, but the Regional District of Nanaimo is missing the bus when it comes to building a relationship with potential customers.

According to a performance report just released by B.C. Transit, ridership in Nanaimo was up 6.4 per cent over the past year, largely because of service improvements carrying people to and from shopping centres and the city’s south end.

Improving the transit exchanges at Prideaux Street and Vancouver Island University have also helped, but these investments aren’t maximized unless they attract more people to ride the bus.

While an increase in ridership is always good, similar sized B.C. cities have seen far better improvement: Comox Valley improved 17 per cent; Kamloops eight per cent; and Prince George almost 17 per cent.

Transit fares account for 30 per cent ($3.6 million) of Nanaimo Regional Transit System’s $12.4 million budget. By informing the public of an improved system, ease of use and cost effectiveness, ridership could improve significantly more than it has.

In a time of high gas prices, expensive vehicles, high vehicle insurance premiums, costly maintenance and economic uncertainty, taking the bus for many families instead of using a second vehicle makes good economic sense.

Many people recognize alternative transportation is a good idea, but they need to be sure the method they choose will get them to their destination in good time, safely and without confusion.

So far, Nanaimo Regional Transit hasn’t advertised enough to the public it can do that.