The future of Sunday bus service in Brandon will likely be revisited in November.
Two weekends into the new day of service, the city’s director of transit services, Tim Sanderson, said the passenger numbers are promising, but said it’ll live or die based on a council decision.
“I think that Sunday service is a fantastic enhancement and I’d love to see it here to stay, especially with numbers supporting it but at the end of the day, it’s a political decision,” he said.
Sanderson said Brandon Transit had to hire one new mechanic to support the service but didn’t need to hire any new drivers by simply increasing the hours of the organization’s part-time staff.
The city initially had a goal of 7.5 passengers per hour, a number that was greatly surpassed on the first day of the service with 12.5. That equates to 738 total passengers during the once-per hour service that runs from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Sundays.
While it exceeded expectations, it’s far below the totals of the rest of the week, though Sanderson said that was to be expected.
“People are going to change their travel patterns,” Sanderson said. “If it stays at 12.5 (passengers per hour), that’s pretty good.”
When council first approved the project, there was some reluctance from the transit department to run the program for only four months, citing concerns that it may be difficult for the public to revert back to six-day service once they get used to riding the bus on Sunday.
The goal of 7.5 passengers per hour, according to Sanderson, is the minimum usage needed for the service to be viable.
“We’re never going to run a profit. We’re never going to break even in public transit. It’s just not the way that it works, but we don’t want to run empty buses around. That’s just not a prudent use of resources.”
Because the system works on a hub-and-spoke model where all buses leave from the centre of the city, it’s unlikely they would take away any routes on Sunday to save money, Sanderson said.
The cost of the four-month-long 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.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 16, 2013