The City of Brandon will run a four-month Sunday bus service pilot project beginning in September.
Coun. Garth Rice (South Centre) put forth the motion for council to include in the 2013 budget. He hopes seven-day bus service will become a permanent fixture in the city by 2014.
"We’ve heard through the poverty committee that there’s a need for it," Rice said. "And it certainly is the environmentally friendly thing to do."
Council approved $50,000 in new funding for the project, which will be matched by the federal government’s gas tax program.
"I was hoping to go full-blown service starting immediately, but others thought it best to ease into it," Rice said. "I fully believe the demand will be there and it’ll be justified in next year’s budget to go all 12 months of seven-day service."
Rice said Brandon is long overdue for Sunday bus service.
"If you look at most Canadian, well North American cities for that matter ... a lot of cities are way ahead of us on that," he said."It’s just a way for people to get around and let’s face it, most of the retail jobs are a seven day a week job now."
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said she personally has received a lot of emails and inquiries regarding Sunday bus service over the past two years.
"For folks that rely on bus service, not having it on Sunday has been very inconvenient especially if they’re working on Sunday," she said. "I’m hoping we have enough volume that it justified the expense of putting on that expanded service."
Tim Sanderson, the city’s director of transportation, said many cities comparable in size to Brandon, such as Medicine Hat, Alta., run seven days.
"It’s more common than not to run bus service seven days a week," he said.
The four-month Sunday trial will provide service similar to a Saturday schedule.
Sanderson anticipates ridership on Sundays to be roughly 7.5 passengers per hour, compared to about 25 passengers per hour on a weekday.
"That will at least be our informal benchmark when we’re doing our report to council," he said. "But at the end of the day, it’s more of a political decision because there’s a need. Even if you have one passenger riding, there’s a need for this service, but is it worth the investment?"
Sanderson said they will measure ridership and provide a report to council along with recommendations.
There was a bit of reluctance from Sanderson to only run the program for four months, as it may be difficult for the public to accept when it comes to an end.
"They build their travel plans and their lives, and their working life and everything around the bus schedule," he said. "When we make changes to it, we don’t necessarily like to enter into them lightly."
Sanderson said he hopes the people of Brandon embrace the Sunday service.
"I’d love nothing more than to see a bunch of people riding the buses on Sundays and really show city council that it is something that’s important for the city and that it’s something that they were wise in trying out," he said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 16, 2013