Reduced bus ridership to cost city $800K this year

Reduced bus ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cost the city's public transit system approximately $800,000 over the rest of the year, according to a report presented to city council on Monday.

Plans by UNBC and the College of New Caledonia to primarily use a remote-learning model for the fall semester will be a big hit the city's bus system, city director of infrastructure and public works Adam Homes said.

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"Our system is running about 60 to 70 per cent of what it normally does," Homes said. "We're heavily dependent on students – 40 per cent of our revenue is from students."

If the city maintains its summer service levels for the remainder of the year, the city projects a $848,400 shortfall by the end of the year. The city reduced bus service to summer levels on March 29, ahead of normal, because of reduced ridership.

Reducing service levels further would reduce costs, but also reduce revenues, the city projected. Reducing bus service to Saturday levels all week could bring the year-end shortfall down to $784,380, the city projected.

Because of physical distancing requirements, the city's 40-foot buses are currently only able to accommodate 20 passengers per bus, instead of the normal 35, Homes said.

If the city were to reduce it's transit service below current levels it could result in buses having to drive by passengers waiting at stops and impact essential-industry workers who rely on the bus system to get to work, the city's report said.

The city will be in talks with B.C. Transit over the course of this month to look at options or potential cost savings for the city's system, Homes said.

"We're dealing with the impact of the COIVD-19 pandemic," Coun. Teri McConnachie said. "But we're also mindful of people who rely on the transit system."

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