BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
A transit rider boards a bus on 15th Street on Sunday. The city’s director of transportation services, Tim Sanderson, says ridership has exceeded expectations for the Sunday service pilot project.
Brandon seems to be on board with Sunday bus service, according to statistics released by the city’s transportation department.
As the four-month pilot project reaches its halfway point, ridership has blown past the city’s expectations — numbers that will help officials make the case for permanent Sunday service.
Sunday ridership numbers from the past two months have greatly exceeded the city’s initial estimates of an average of 7.5 per hour — numbers that will help the transportation department make a case to make the four-month pilot project permanent when budget talks begin later this year. Listed by total number of passengers with average number per hour in brackets
- Sept. 8 — 738 (12.4)
- Sept. 15 — 923 (15.4)
- Sept. 22 — 926 (15.4)
- Sept. 29 — 954 (15.9)
- Oct. 6 — 895 (14.9)
- Oct. 13 — 826 (13.8)
- Oct. 20 — 872 (14.5)
- Oct. 27 — 857 (14.3)
» Source: Brandon transportation services
Over the past eight weeks, Sunday ridership has been as high as 950 passengers in a day — that’s nearly 16 passengers per hour and more than double the initial projection of 7.5 riders per hour.
With data from electronic fareboxes installed in all Brandon Transit buses, the transportation department is able to also track peak times and the number of passholders who take a Sunday ride on the city’s public chariots.
Last Sunday for instance, ridership hit a peak of 60 passengers at 1:30 p.m., similar to other weeks and the most frequently used fare types were adult 30 Day, adult cash, adult 10 ride passes and Brandon University student UPasses.
All routes, except those serving industrial areas and Assiniboine Community College, run hourly from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Sundays, similar to Saturday service.
"The people have really come out and they’ve really embraced it," said Tim Sanderson, the city’s director of transportation services.
In contrast, weekday service sees about 4,000 riders and Saturday service is used by around 2,000 people.
Next month, while the city prepares its annual budget, Sanderson is scheduled to make the case to council to make the seventh-day service permanent.
The cost for the pilot project is estimated at $286,000 with a provincial operating grant, so the direct cost for the City of Brandon will be roughly $143,000 for four months.
Sanderson said there will likely be no changes to how Sunday bus service already runs if it sticks around and there have been no requests for earlier or later service.
"Most of the stuff is just modifying shifts," he said
"As we prepare for the presentation, we will really dig into the numbers and take a good look at it and see when the spikes are and when they aren’t," he said. "When you start deviating too far from what people normally expect, it causes confusion and it has unintended consequences ... we’d have to have a pretty good reason to tinker with it."
However, there isn’t much data to mine from. By the time the department presents its case to council next month, there will be only about 10 days worth of numbers.
The pilot project expires in the new year, but Sanderson said he wants to get a firm answer from council well in advance to avoid any lapse in service.
"We’ve like to get word from council whether they want to continue it or not prior to it expiring," he said. "We wouldn’t just want to cancel service and then start it up again."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 4, 2013