While changes to Fredericton’s bus system came into effect Sept. 2, many in the city remain opposed, even after a compromise was made to preserve service to the Silverwood and Lincoln areas in August.
Bus fares for Fredericton Transit jumped 25 cents to $2.50, with another rate increase expected Jan. 2 that will bring individual fare to $2.75, see students’ monthly passes increase by $10 to $55, and adult passes see the same increase to $80.
According to the St. Thomas University website, their student bus service cost held steady between the previous and current school years, with a one-time charge of $86.25 attached to students’ union fees.
Schedules were reworked to create more runs through the morning and peak hours, cutting runs from less used routes and from the end of the schedule in some cases.
Councillor Scott McConaghy of Ward 7 in the Lincoln area put up a fight for his residents when it was suggested service to their area would be halted. He found the compromise to cut service to Lincoln and Silverwood in half, from eight runs apiece to four, acceptable.
“There was a break in the evening that used to be throughout the city at supper hour. We now have service all through the evening,” he said. “Now you won’t need a schedule so much because if you know it came it 3:05, it’ll come at 3:35 and so on. If people can come to depend on that service, maybe we will see more people using the service. At the end of the day, we need more people to use the service.”
Nicholas Kean, a third-year University of New Brunswick student, created a change.org petition titled “Undo the changes to the transit schedule and have the buses run on Sundays,” which gathered more than 300 signatures by Saturday, Sept. 6.
Kean said eliminating some of the transit system’s latest runs including the 10N Carlisle Road and 13S Prospect will leave many who work until late at night or overnight without a ride. By the time he is finished working the closing shift at the Regent Mall Cineplex he is too late to make it onto the final 10N bus departing the mall at 9:38 p.m.
“Closing could be anywhere from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., which is alright, but I’d either have to get lucky and find a ride home or pay $10 for a cab,” Kean said. “It’s almost like working an hour every day for free.”
He is also opposed to the idea of paying more for declining services.
“I see where they’re coming from when they say its not making money, but it was never meant to make money,” Kean said. “It makes money tangentially by helping people go shopping or go to work.”
Tony Hay, transit manager for the city, said most of the feedback has been from people happy to have hourly service all day and half-hourly service at peak hours, but he heard some complaints over the cuts.
“We’ve had a couple of phone calls this week, but we’ve also studied the ridership in those areas,” he said. “We know how many people were taking the bus at those hours… There is an inconvenience there for sure… but right now I haven’t had that many complaints.”
He said the ridership covers just over 40 per cent of the cost of operating the transit service, while the rest of it is covered by taxes paid by the citizens of Fredericton.