NEWS/ CITY HALL — Selling passes to specific neighbourhoods and increasing advertising on buses were among the ideas councillors came up with today as ways of dealing with escalating operating costs for the city’s bus system.
But by the end of a workshop they were leaning to the more traditional method — increasing fares.
City council discussed the problem during a morning workshop after receiving a staff report that showed service levels up, ridership up, but costs going up even more.
The report offered two options on fares: keeping the current fare at $2.25 but eliminated discounts for seniors and high-school students.
The second option would raise regular fares from $2.25 to $2.50 and discount fares from $1.75 to to $2.25, bringing them closer together.
It would see a higher initial decline in ridership but would bring in about $290,000 in added revenue annually.
Consensus landed on the second option. There was some disagreement on when the changes should be made, but council settled on having the matter brought forward for a decision late next March or early April.
Coun. Donovan Cavers said most conflicts between bus drivers and passengers are caused by disagreements over fares. “Most of those are related to drivers having to enforce difference fares. They already have a stressful job.”
But after initially favoring the first option he said he was OK with the second, suggesting it be put into effect in September 2015. He also felt the ProPass for businesses could be marketed more, noting it only accounts for two per cent of fare revenue while the U-Pass for university students is 26 per cent.
He suggested passes could be marketed to Royal Inland Hospital staff or riders from other specific areas.
Coun. Arjun Singh proposed marketing under-utilized routes to bring up ridership, Coun. Marg Spina wondered about selling more advertising on buses, and Coun. Nelly Dever felt the “extremely low” U-Pass rates should be reviewed.
Mayor Peter Milobar didn’t see much value in getting more involved in advertising. “Advertising is a drop in the bucket,” he said. “I don’t think we’re needing to get knee-deep in how many ads they should sell inside buses.”
He also warned that the U-Pass is negotiated with the TRU Student Union and any changes have to be approved by referendum. Losing the U-Pass would cost 26 per cent of the City’s bus fare revenues.