Feb 2, 2008

Ridership Hits All Time High

If you travel east from Durham Region along the 401 hwy. and keep on driving for about an hour and half, you will come to The City of Kingston, Ontario. This is a city with a population of 152,358, compared to Durham Region at 561,258.

Kingston Transit has something special happening to it. Ridership has gone up by 7.5 per cent in 2007. Youth riders showed the greatest increase of 25 percent and adult riders at 8 per cent, more in 2007. This is truly impressive. Durham Region Transit could use a shot in the arm like this.

Paula Nichols, the city's manager of transit, attributed the rise in ridership to increased awareness of Kingston Transit as well as several service improvements, including putting more buses on the road. "Our key concern is having a service that is convenient and reliable," Nichols said. "If we don't have a convenient service, it's pretty tough to get people out of their cars."

Preston Schiller, a public transportation expert who lectures at Queen's University's School of Urban and Regional Planning, said "there are several ways of increasing ridership and one that I happen to think is very important is to think of what are your key core routes and consider if those routes can be made a little more frequent or a little more straightened out," he said.

Schiller, an adjunct professor at Queen's, said he doubts the rising cost of gasoline has much impact on whether people choose public transit.

"That may become a big factor in the future, but the marginal cost of driving is still pretty cheap," he said. "We are going to have to have a much higher gasoline price before people start to leave the car at home and take the bus."

The staff at Kingston Transit contribute their success to the following.

  • The addition of full weekday service on Saturdays, creating a Monday to Saturday daytime service
  • Extending Saturday night bus service by four hours to run to 11 p.m.
  • Matching Sunday routes to weekday Evening weekday routes
  • Extending Sunday service by three hours to run 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Providing a more direct route from Highway 15 to downtown during peak commuter hours
  • Adding wheelchair accessibility to Routes 2 and Route B (Route 1 has been wheelchair accessible since 2006)
  • Making the Rack and Roll program (which allows cyclists to rack their bikes on the front of buses) available on all City buses
  • Adding a new Dial-a-Bus service from Kingston East to Highway 2 (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
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