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Bus ridership down slightly in Cranbrook

Ridership was down for the 2013/14 year on Cranbrook's buses. BC Transit noted a three per cent decrease over last year's ridership in an annual report presented through the city's administration.

Mayor Wayne Stetski said the decrease was in ridership and revenue, but could be attributed to a continued decline of enrolment at the College of the Rockies, particularly in programs contributing to Upass and the Slaterville service, which was introduced in 2012/13.

The total system ridership was budgeted as $251,136 in the 2013/14 budget, but the actual was $217,784. That accounts for the three per cent decrease when compared to last year's actual amount of $224,496.

"Hopefully it will turn around," Stetski said.

Angus Davis noted the decrease in transit ridership .

"It's cost the city a bundle of money to have the transit system here," he said. "The BC Transit people are very positive and very energetic. They come and they tell us all the wonderful things that are going to happen. But not very many people use the bus, and that's the bottom line. Hopefully we can do something about this, or draw a line in the sand somewhere, because we spend a lot of money every year, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Stetski said there is good news on the transit front.

"In terms of innovation, BC Transit welcomed its first fleet of compressed natural gas fuelled heavy-duty buses with 25 entering service in the Regional District of Nanaimo in March of 2014. In the mid-sized bus segment, 15 medium duty buses underwent their first year of trials in six communities across the province. So those are kind of the ones we want."

Stetski read on, saying that March 2014 marked the completion of the 5-year hydrogen fuel cell demonstration project in the Resort Municipality of Whistler. It was the world's largest fleet of hydrogen buses in one location.

The fleet accumulated more than four million kilometers and avoided more than 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) recently recognized the project for leadership in innovation and collaboration.

Daniel Pizarro, senior regional transit manager, wrote that recently the BC Transit Workshop held in Kelowna offered an opportunity for collaboration and consultation among partners. He said over 155 participants, including those from operating companies, local government staff and elected officials, engaged in discussion on initiatives aimed at making public transit more attractive, effective and ultimately more sustainable.

"The liveliest session for local government partners this year was in relation to fare product development and distribution," Pizarro wrote. "It is recognized that funding for transit is becoming increasingly important for all partners and maximizing the value received through the fare box can be significantly influenced through a well-designed fare structure. In addition to higher yields, a thoughtful structure that incorporates components such as a single cash fare, can lead to fewer disputes and safety concerns."

He wrote that developing a fare strategy based on best practices observed across North America is a key focus for BC Transit this year and will likely be a popular topic at next year's workshop

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