Three-quarters of the way through 2018, transit ridership in the Battlefords remains on an upward trend and is on track for two per cent growth year-over-year.
As of September 30, 19,922 rides were recorded, compared to 19,585 at the same time in 2017, about a one per cent jump. In 2017, a total of 25,987 rides were reported on the transit network.
Transit manager Paul Robertson is pleased with the steady growth, noting a desire for two to three per cent annually. Robertson took over the position in May 2017 and helped bump ridership by 7.4 per cent by year-end. He credited this to various administrative, public relations and costs saving measures after a long-time manager retired.
“I am in an industry where continual improvement is a must,” he said. “It is like running the mile in under a minute, no one thought it was possible but they gradually got faster and faster.”
Contained within this are fundraising efforts to help lower the subsidy directed his way from the city. Currently, Robertson has entered into an agreement with Splish Splash Car Wash to sell $25 gift cards for $20, splitting the revenue between the company and the Battlefords Transit System.
“Obviously, with budgets being cut, we try to make sure we try to do something else for income,” he added.
On the Handi-Bus side of operations, despite ridership jumping from 19,451 in 2016 to 20,972 last year, numbers are down in the first nine months of 2018 and are expected to be on par or below last year’s final tally. Though 14,148 rides have been recorded to date, as opposed to just 13,990 by this time last year, Robertson was not anticipating the large upticks seen in October, November and December last year to repeat.
The dip in ridership he said was due to poor weather and a flu epidemic that shuttered many of the homes served. He said seven regular users of the service also passed away this year.
“All those have an adverse effect on picking up people,” he said. “In August alone we were down by 33 per cent because of smoke and cancellations as [many of the homes] wouldn’t let their patients out.”
In an effort to better serve clients, Robertson has embarked on offering medical charters to Saskatoon at an affordable rate. The first ride occurred in early October. Robertson offers the charter service for around $380, well below taxi or ambulance rates, he said, which can come in closer to $1,000.
“Out of that, we don’t make a lot of money, but we do it as an extra service,” he said. “I am going to get old one day and hopefully there will be someone around to help me out. I do this to make sure the elderly in North Battleford don’t get stressed out trying to get around.”
FARE INCREASE POSSIBLE
At the transit committee’s recent board meeting, Handi-Bus cash fares were increased by $1 and Roberston said a motion was carried to pitch city council on Nov. 13 to increase cash fares for public transit from $3 to $4.
“It is an increase of 33 per cent, but if council will allow me to do that only time will tell,” he said, noting there has not been an increase for three years. “If we don’t bring in money, the city bears the brunt of costing it.”
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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