Kamloops council has decided to take more time to consider proposed 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, down a buck from the current day-pass fare.
The issue among many councillors is elimination of the transfer system, which allows users to board multiple buses for 60 minutes with a $2 fare.
The proposal to eliminate transfers also led to an outcry from residents in Kamloops.
Coun. Sadie Hunter’s motion to defer any changes until council can further study the issue was approved by council.
“Being a spread-out community as we are, there are many routes that require a transfer,” Hunter said.
“To me, I struggle with removing that as an option given that’s most often required.”
Coun. Arjun Singh had concerns about making a decision without understanding fully the socio-economic impacts on the city’s low-income residents.
Coun. Kathy Sinclair said users want the options of taking transit one direction, without wanting to buy a day pass.
“I think we’re really trying to encourage multi-modal transportation,” she said.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said he wants to better understand the city’s cost-recovery percentage.
Transit user Jesse Ritcey, who appeared before council to express concern over his transit fares doubling under the new rules, said he is glad to hear council will seek out more consultation.
He said the proposed elimination of transfers would negatively impact the casual bus user.
He was curious to hear of the possibility of lowering the day pass.
Council heard the day pass could be lowered to $2. What it would cost the city, however, is unclear.
“That would be fantastic,” Ritcey said.
Council also heard staff will be bringing forward information in the future about an affordable-transportation option, though no additional details were provided.
TThe proposed changes are being suggested to better align the Kamloops system with BC Transit and pave the way for new payment technology expected aboard 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 include 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.
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.