Late night buses, expanded service coming in January

While many transit organizations are in the middle of financial meltdowns, including the MTA in New York, BC Transit is set to buck the trend and expand bus service here in region (PDF) for the second time in less than six months. This fall brought (PDF) the new 12 and 13 routes out of UVic, some changes in service and more hours, while this January will bring two new routes, late night buses and the balance of the just over 40k more service hours.

The first of the new routes is the cross town 10 route, running from the Jubilee Hospital to Esquimalt Dockyard along Bay St. and Esquimalt Road. This hasn’t been without controversy, as residents along Bay St. expressed concernd about the narrowness of Bay St. and “buses backing up traffic”.

Route 15 map
Route 15 (Dogwood Line) map

Joining the 10 is a new express route from Downtown to UVic. Route 15, nee the Dogwood Line, will shave 3 minutes off the current fastest route to UVic, the 14, with limited stops along the way. One of the challenges of running new buses to UVic is the lack of space in the current exchange, built in 1995, well before UVic’s student population hit nearly 20k, of which nearly 30% of which use the bus. To this end, the old bus exchange will soon become a new bus exchange, although it currently isn’t clear if the 15 will be using that space.

Also coming are late night buses (PDF), an oft-requested service for those of us who actually like to spend time downtown after the sun goes down. This service won’t be cheap, costing BC Transit about $7 for each of the nearly 17,000 estimated riders during the 3 month trial period. Earlier cost estimates (PDF) put each bus at ~$400/hr to run, vs between $60 and $93 usually. This is mostly due to the extra shifts needed in operating and maintaining the fleet. Amongst the future options for payment include a U-pass cost increase, given the expected ridership is mostly students.

Lastly and on the subject of fares, BCTransit has been looking for input on their fare increase plan, set to be implemented in April 2010. Currently they plan on removing the discount cash fare, addition of an off-peak pass and increasing nearly every other pass, ticket and fare. Full details in their press release (PDF). The date for feedback closed on the 15th of Dec and the transit commission will be voting on the plan on January 12th, 2010.

All in all, this is good news for transit riders, although maybe one of these days we might even get some rail transit here in the region, although I suspect it will be a long time before it comes to UVic.