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Commuter bus usage up, revenues down

User fares aren’t keeping pace with increasing costs of Whistler-Pemberton service

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More people than ever are using the number 99 bus between Pemberton and Whistler. Statistics released as part of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District budget process shows ridership so far this year is up 25 per cent from the same period last year.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD), the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Lil’wat Nation plan to spend a combined total of $118,889 over the course of 2014 to fund the Pemberton Valley Transit System.

The budget plan calls for a continuation a 40-40-20 cost sharing agreement. The VOP and Lil’wat Nation have each been contributing 40 per cent of the system costs while the SLRD has picked up the remaining 20 per cent. The SLRD has also been administering the contracts associated with the transit system.

An SLRD budget report shows riders using the commuter service are heavily subsided. The cost per ride in 2013 was estimated at $13.49 per ride and the revenue collected per ride was $4.84. Only 24 per cent of the cost of running the commuter service in 2013 was covered by fares collected from users of the service. The amount collected from riders in 2012 was higher at 27 per cent of the operating costs. According to the report, the cost of vehicle maintenance and repairs led to the higher system expenses.

The costs recovered from the local transit service operating in Mount Currie and Pemberton was much higher in 2013 at 43.4 per cent.

According to SLRD staff, the cost recovery target is 30 per cent so the local service is well within the range BC Transit considers reasonable but the cost recovery of the commuter service is headed in the wrong direction. To address the slide away from optimum cost recovery the SLRD is recommending a review of commuter fares this spring to determine if a fare increase is needed. The current adult cash fare to ride the commuter bus is $4.50. Passes and bulk ticket purchases are available at a significant savings compared to the single-ride fare.

Check back with Pique for more news from SLRD on Thursday.

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