Council has paved the way for a series of public transit changes, beginning this fall and continuing through 2020, including subsidized fares for low-income residents, the elimination of transfers, route improvements and expanded transit hours annually for regular and custom (HandyDart and door-to-door) service.
A one-year supportive transportation pilot program will see up to 1,000 residents get transit fares at 15 per cent of regular cost.
City social development supervisor Natalie Serl detailed the City Pass, which will cost low-income residents $80 per year and can be paid in four quarterly instalments. Passes will be offered on a referral basis based on income — about $21,000 for one-person households, $39,000 for families of four and up to the mid-$50,000 range for larger families.
Serl told KTW the program will come at no additional costs to the city, but will break down barriers for those who cannot afford to get around the city.
“The costs of transportation is one of the biggest obstacles to accessing these activities [recreation, work, schools and parks],” Serl said.
Council also approved a new transit fare structure, previously deferred to Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, allowing the city to align with BC Transit fares and prepare for more technology on city buses.
The new structure will decrease the cost of monthly and daily pass fees, but eliminate transfers — a point of contention for some residents when the proposal first came before city council.
Day passes will drop to $4 from $5, monthly adult passes will drop to $50 from $53, monthly PROPasses will drop to $40 from $44 and student/senior monthly passes will drop to $30 from $34.
In 2017-2018, 188,000 rides were paid for via a transfer, or about five per cent of all rides.
The impact of no transfers would be a maximum of $24 per month for adults who ride casually and pay in cash and $14 for students and seniors. Two city councillors — Dale Bass and Kathy Sinclair — could not move past the issue of transfers. Sinclair asked about the possibility of an exemption.
“I would really hate to see that [transfers] go here in Kamloops,” she said. “I think encouraging people to get a monthly pass makes a lot of sense, and that makes a lot of sense for people commuting every day, but there is a group of casual users.”
City engineering manager Deven Matkowski, said the city would need to relook at amending the revenue structures as a whole — which was “considered as a package” — should transfers remain.
Councillors Sadie Hunter, Arjun Singh, Mike O’Reilly, Denis Walsh and Dieter Dudy and Mayor Ken Christian voted in favour of eliminating transfers. Bass and Sinclair were opposed.
Coun. Bill Sarai was absent.
“The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone, in terms of transit,” Christian said, adding new technology will improve city efforts to increase ridership, sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from single-occupancy transportation.
Council also approved implementation of 3,000 transit hours this fall to routes 1, 7, 9 and 17, which are expected to improve bus timeliness and pass-ups, which occurs when bus drivers coast by bus stops when vehicles are full.
Matkowski said in January 2019, 16 incidents occurred when drivers reported more than 150 riders left behind to wait for the next bus. He said passups occur on routes 7 and 9, noting increasing frequency should help.
Additionally, just 55 per cent of buses are on time, council heard, due to the same issues affecting drivers’ commutes: construction, traffic and accidents, in addition to frequent pick-ups and drop-offs. More than 500 of this fall’s transit hours have been allocated to improve bus timeliness.
Finally, council also approved a memorandum of understanding with BC Transit that could see, pending budget talks next year, 4,500 additional conventional transit hours added in 2020, in addition to increased custom service to match weekday service of the conventional system. Those changes would cost the city about $223,000.
Matkowski said in order to reach the city’s transit goals, it would have to add 4,500 hours annually over the next two decades. It is unclear where those hours could be allocated.
September 2019 service expansion:
• approximately 175 hours added to Route 1 to improve weekday on-time performance, and the evening span on Sundays will be extended;
• approximately 1,075 hours added to Route 7 to improve service frequency on Saturdays, increase the weekend service span, and improve weekday on-time performance approximately 950 hours added to Route 9 to improve service frequency on Saturdays and improve weekday on-time performance;
• approximately 75 hours used to extend the evening span on Sundays on Route 17;
• approximately 525 hours used to make additional on-time performance improvements to weekday schedules;
• approximately 200 hours used to ensure that base service levels can be maintained in summer 2020 given the fall 2019 service expansion.