When the City of Brandon embarked upon a pilot project to run a Sunday bus service earlier this year, the Sun encouraged city residents to embrace the new service as a means to send a message to council to “keep the bus engines humming seven days a week.”
With two months of the four-month pilot project now complete, it’s already obvious — to us and to the city’s transportation services director, Tim Sanderson — that the experiment has been a complete success and exceeded all initial expectations.
As the Sun reported on Monday, over the past eight weeks, Sunday ridership has been as high as 950 passengers in a day, which translates into nearly 16 passengers per hour. That more than doubles the initial projection of 7.5 riders per hour on Sunday.
Electronic fare boxes installed in all Brandon Transit buses has also allowed the city to compile data to track peak times and the number of pass holders who take a Sunday ride. A week ago Sunday, for example, ridership hit a peak of 60 passengers at 1:30 p.m., similar to previous weeks.
Of course, Sunday hours don’t compare to weekday hours — weekday service sees about 4,000 riders and Saturday service is used by about 2,000 people.
But the strong numbers coming out of Sunday transit service thus far have given Sanderson reason enough to suggest to council to continue the program permanently — beyond the initial four-month pilot period — which he intends to do when the department presents its case to council next month.
Though the pilot project expires in the new year, Sanderson said he wants to get a firm answer from council well in advance to avoid any lapse in service.
“We’d like to get word from council whether they want to continue it or not prior to it expiring,” Sanderson said. “We wouldn’t just want to cancel service and then start it up again.”
To date, there have only been eight days logged in the pilot program, giving city council a small sample size to base a decision upon. But as we have said many times on this page, Brandon is large enough, and Sunday transit service is important enough, to warrant its continued existence.
There are people living in this city who simply do not have access to a car and cannot afford to maintain one — whether they be seniors, low-income residents or students.
Yes, this kind of service would be an extra cost on the city budget, but it’s a service that is arguably worth supporting in Manitoba’s second-largest city.
And the numbers are beginning to show it.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 5, 2013