For the third year this year, Brandon Transit will be offering free rides to revellers on New Year’s Eve.
It is strange to recall that in the first year of the service, 2011, it was almost contentious. Before that, citing low demand, the city had shut down bus service on New Year’s Eve at 6 p.m.
Then, in 2011, they decided to spend an extra $1,000 to keep the buses running until midnight.
As we pointed out at the time, pulling the last bus off the road at midnight — just as every New Year’s Eve party in the city was reaching its climax —didn’t seem to make any sense.
Thankfully, Manitoba Public Insurance stepped in, as they do every year in Winnipeg, to sponsor the bus service.
In 2011, the cost of extending the service all the way to 3 a.m. was estimated at $7,000, but half of that was for advertising its existence.
Tim Sanderson, the city’s director of transportation services, told the Sun that this year’s budget would be about the same.
With Manitoba Public Insurance stepping in to cover much of the operating expenses, and with media partners — including the Sun — providing free advertising, the real charge to the city is minimal.
“For the amount of ridership we get, it’s absolutely a reasonable cost,” Sanderson told us.
In 2011, the free buses attracted about 970 riders. That number slipped last year, as frigid temperatures and biting winds kept folks indoors, but there were still at least 700 people.
Sanderson says that, if anything, the city undercounts riders, since they’re not keeping track of payment.
We are happy to support this service.
It’s a very small investment with a great benefit-to-cost ratio. It helps hundreds of Brandonites get home every year.
Like the popular free bus routes during the Lieutenant-Governor’s Winter Festival, this is also a great opportunity to introduce the bus system to transit newcomers who may be otherwise accustomed to taking their cars.
Brandon is lucky to have a well-developed system of bus routes that reach most of the city, that on most days head out every half hour.
New Year’s Eve service is just one of a number of transit improvements that the city has embarked on recently. Sunday service continues to be much more popular than the city dared hope. And even with a nickel fare hike to transit coming in the new year, the single adult cash fare of $1.20 will be one of the lowest in the country, and nearly a dollar lower than the $2.15 it cost to take the bus in 2010 (however, the city did end free transfers).
It’s even on Google Maps, which for city visitors can be a godsend, and which makes the steep learning curve associated with our hub-and-spoke model of bus routes a heck of a lot easier to understand.
Could our transit system be improved even more? Certainly — anything can. But in the spirit of the holidays, we’re not about to gripe.
We urge all our readers to start thinking about what their New Year’s Eve plans are. Champagne and canapés are great ideas — car rides afterwards may not be.
If you don’t have a designated driver, then after ringing in the new year, you should ring up a cab, or ring up Operation Red Nose.
Or, take the bus.
There’s no excuse for an unsafe ride home.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 19, 2013