Abbotsford’s bus system is becoming more reliable, with its future “rapid transit” line particularly busy.
The city’s transit system was previously been found to be plagued by inconsistency, with buses unable to keep to their schedule and sometimes forced to bypass waiting passengers.
The last year has seen the city tweak routes, decreasing service on little-used lines in favour of busier buses.
On Monday, staff told council that those moves have paid off, with the reliability of buses increasing from 59 to 74 per cent between the summers of 2018 and 2019.
“Our system is now more reliable overall, but we have some specific routes that still have challenges,” said senior transportation manager Mike Kelly.
Three bus lines – routes 5,6 and 12 – have still had trouble keeping to their schedules, and, when the city adds more service hours this January, improving reliability on those routes will be among the priorities.
Meanwhile, the route the city envisions as its future rapid transit line has proven to be extremely popular. Route 1 – which runs from Highstreet down Maclure, Old Yale Road and South Fraser Way to the historic downtown, then south to UFV – is now carrying one-third of all bus passengers in Abbotsford. Buses along the route currently run every 20 minutes during rush hour and every half-hour at other periods. The city eventually hopes to reduce that to a minimum of every 15 minutes.
Staff say the route is already “outperforming benchmarks for ‘rapid’ bus routes in rides per service hour and rides per kilometre.’”
The success of the core route has been such that buses at peak times have been filling up. Some of January’s service improvements will go to that route, with buses set to run every 18 minutes during peak hours.
“Having a particular route that is reaching capacity is a great problem to have,” Coun. Bruce Banman said. “That means people are actually using the service that’s being provided.”
The city has been unable to increase the number of buses for years because its current storage yard was at capacity. The construction of a new bus depot on Gladys Avenue will allow room for more buses, when the city sees fit to add them.
Plans are already in the works to add a dozen buses and increase service by 40 per cent over the next three years. That is already faster than originally planned, but Coun. Sandy Blue said the public’s usage of the system could further lead to a boost in transit spending.
“I’m hoping, as we improve on this base, that we’re going to advance those future improvements even quicker. As we get more ridership and there’s more trust, frankly, there will likely be more demand and I think that there will be things that we do that are an expansion of the budget as well.”
Staff presented council earlier this year with the possibility of accelerating the growth of the city’s transit system even faster. That option, which staff didn’t recommend and council didn’t choose, would have set the city on course to having buses running every 10 minutes along the three core routes. But the plan would have cost an extra $350,000 every year.
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