B.C. Transit will be increasing service in Prince George by six per cent and upgrading some additional routes to 15-minute service.
On Monday Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon announced $555,000 in funding to purchase two new Nova buses and boost service in the city. The money is part of a $20.5 million initiative to purchase 48 buses and boost transit service by 10 per cent province wide.
“This is part of the $14 billion transit plan the premier and I announced earlier this year,” Falcon said. “We found we had a list of projects that communities wanted to get going right away.”
The project increases B.C. Transit’s annual budget by 40 per cent.
The B.C. government has set a target of doubling transit ridership in the province by 2020 ?reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 4.7 million tonnes per year.
Falcon and the B.C. Transit board of directors were in Prince George to meet with local community leaders and hear about needs in the North.
“We want to have service increased in Northern B.C. and rural areas where it makes sense. We want to increase usage and create a culture of ridership.”
Mayor Colin Kinsley, who is a member of the board of directors, said the city has shown doubling transit usage is possible.
“In 2002 Prince George had 520,000 riders on our system. It’s targeted to reach 1.3 million this year,” Kinsley said. “It is no longer the loser cruiser’… it’s a 40-foot limousine.”
The city hasn’t decided which routes will have the frequency doubled from every 30 minutes to every 15 minutes, he said. However, they will connect with buses heading up to UNBC.
During student elections this year, students voted 70 per cent in favour of including a year-long bus pass ?or U-Pass ?into their tuition costs.
The projected 1.3 million riders this year was based on expected U-Pass users and current service, he added.
“Frequency tends to grow ridership because it’s more convenient,” Kinsley added. “We might expect it to grow more.”
Increasing usage makes it more cost-effective to increase service, which then can increase ridership more, he said. The city’s portion of the new buses and service increase is more than $628,000.
B.C. Transit president Manuel Achadinha said Prince George is a transit leader in the province.
“This really is a showcase for where we can go in transit,” Achadinha said. “It’s an example of what we can do in the province.”