CORNER BROOK — Changes to the Corner Brook transit service appear evident.
The findings of the one-year trial to improve the city bus service were released at Monday evening’s public meeting of council. It was accompanied by the results of the public survey which followed.
City staff proposed a list of possible recommendations and suggestions, but a two-bus system service was extended throughout October until a final decision can be made on the future of the system.
According to Steve May, the director of operational services, the key outcomes of the trial period and survey were the NextBus application is not being utilized by the public, but the free application of google maps is.
He said the overall number of riders increased 68,488 in the year to 80,513 during the trial year. However, ridership during a two-bus system as opposed to a four-bus system only reduced from 22 rides per hour from 24 rides per hour — despite the significant increased cost of the extra buses.
The number of riders was low during the evening hours, which was added during the trial period, averaging just seven rides per hour. While Saturday riders were lower than day time hours and higher than evenings — averaging 14 rides per hour.
The results of the cost evaluation was the subsidy per ride is lowest during the day, at $5.80 per ride, and highest during the evenings, at $19.98 per ride.
The possible ways to streamline the transit system as suggested by staff included a two-bus system, year round, and on an hourly schedule as optimized according to the findings of the trial or a one-bus system, year round and on an optimized route. May said another option could be to schedule a bus for the high usage times only.
Staff also recommended a possibility would be to seek independent private-sector proposals for transit services that could work and be affordable in Corner Brook.
It was also suggested to seek the input of the public on the value of having a public transit system and what is deemed a reasonable subsidy for the service.
The reaction around the council chamber was varied, but the consensus was some form of a transit system is needed in Corner Brook.
Coun. Priscilla Boutcher was the most adamant in that requirement. She said times has changed from the years of government grants for such services as transit, but the service is still a necessity.
“With the price of gas and our terrain, and everything, I think we need to downsize in some way to still have some kind of service,” she said.
“We have an aging population, and a lot of these people in the years to come will want some kind of service. They might not need it every hour, but it is worth the effort of looking at it again.”
Coun. Leo Bruce said the nearly $20 subsidy per person to get on the bus in the evenings and the nearly $10 expense per rider Saturdays is too costly.
“I don’t think the taxpayers of Corner Brook can afford to pay those subsidies for a person to get on the bus and take a ride anywhere in the city of Corner Brook,” he said.
He said the results of the trial period and survey were compelling. He encourages entrepreneurs to come forward with proposals to offer some kind of service.
“The city of Corner Brook is a city that needs some kind of a transit service, but not at this cost at these numbers,” he said. “They are extreme. They are too high.”
The statistics from the trial period and survey are available online at www.cornerbrook.com.