The City of Kamloops is proposing changes to transit fees, which include lowering monthly fares and eliminating the transfer system, with the latter to be replaced with a $4 day pass.
The proposed changes, which will go before council on Tuesday, April 2, are being suggested to better align the Kamloops system with BC Transit and pave the way for new payment technology expected aboard B.C. buses, including in Kamloops.
The end result of the proposed changes is expected to be increased revenues, which would fund more of the city’s share of transit costs, and increased ridership.
Proposed changes include: reducing monthly passes from $53 to $50 for adults, $44 to $40 for ProPASSes (employer’s program) and $34 to $30 for students and seniors and reducing day passes from $5 to $4.
The $2 single cash fare introduced in 2015 would not change under the new structure, nor would student U-Passes.
Projected revenues for the proposed fare structure would see an increase in revenue of $191,000 or six per cent and an 11 per cent boost to ridership, with an additional 346,000 annual riders.
The city’s engineering manager, Deven Matkowski, said the city and BC Transit want to move toward payment technology on buses. Exact technology has not been decided upon, though BC Transit is looking at more user-friendly options such as tap cards, which would allow riders to purchase bus passes on board, pay by debit card or set up accounts with a smartphone.
“One of the things that’s happening right now, because BC Transit works in a number of communities across the province, they need to try to get some alignment with the different fare practice policies so that when the technology is implemented in the buses, they can do that,” Matkowski said.
Part of that alignment includes elimination of the paper transfer system, which Matkowski called old technology and is effectively a sheet of paper torn at a certain time allowing riders to take another bus within one hour to ensure passengers can get to their final destination.
Matkowski said transfers are onerous on drivers and the system is easily abused. In place of that system is a proposed $4 day pass, a reduction of $1 from the current $5 day passes. That proposed change does not, however, take into consideration passengers paying with cash who are travelling one way and need to take two buses to get their destination.
For example, someone travelling from Westsyde to Aberdeen and staying there will now have to pay $4 instead of $2.
Matkowski said he will seek clarity on that from BC Transit, but it is expected to impact only passengers going one direction who pay with cash.
The report to council notes: “As part of BC Transit’s Fare Guidelines, staff recommend discontinuing transfers due to issues that stem from the subjective nature of their use, which creates the potential for fare evasion by transit users who attempt to use an expired or invalid transfer as a valid fare. In escalated circumstances, this can lead to conflict between customers and operators.”
The report adds that nixing transfers and implementing a day pass “has reduced transfer-related conflicts with operators to the point of conflicts being non-existent.”
Regardless, the city wants to encourage more monthly passes, which are easier administratively than cash. Prepaid passes are also a better deal for riders. Another recommendation going to council is the elimination of special discounts for seniors and students on 10-packs, which will jump from $15.50 to $18.
Along with those proposed changes, council on Tuesday will look at two alternate options that would see more money collected, but would increase ridership, according to projections.
Transit costs are shared by municipalities and the province, though money collected via fares goes toward the city’s share of those costs. Effectively, any changes council decides upon impacts the city’s wallet. The City of Victoria implemented the same changes and saw an increase in both revenue and ridership.
The last change to transit fees came in 2015, when $2 single cash fares were introduced.
The city has not yet made any decisions on how to allocate additional hours approved by city council during recent supplemental budget talks. The extra 3,000 hours will come into effect in September.
Meanwhile, the city is in the public consultation phase of its 20-year transit future plan. Residents who have opinions on where bus stops should and shouldn’t be or which routes need tweaking can go online until April 8 to https://letstalk.kamloops.ca/TransitAction to provide feedback. The city will conclude its plan this fall. The last plan was updated in 2012.
Transit ridership has been increasing overall, with nearly 3.7-million riders in 2017-2018.