si-nb-codiac-bus-220

Codiac Transpo buses have been back on the road for about a month, following a five-month lockout. (CBC)

Codiac Transpo has had only "moderate" ridership in the month since buses have been back on the road, despite the fact that passengers can ride for free, says a senior transit planner.

But plans are underway to make further improvements to the system in an effort to woo passengers in the greater Moncton area back, said Marie-Claire Pierce.

"We would hope within a year that we'll be up with our regular ridership and then we'll continue to try to work to get new riders on the system and get out there with education programs, etcetera," she said.

Codiac Transpo redesigned the bus system during a five month lock-out of transit workers.

Fifteen of 19 revamped routes are now in use, with the rest expected at the end of the month, said Pierce. Passengers can travel for free until then.

User James Whitten says he's still getting used to the new routes.

"I get confused with, to be honest, with the different green, blue, red and I don't know, I just have to ask all the bus drivers but they're fairly accommodating," he said.

Whitten believes the riders will return. "They have to. It's always going to be in demand."

Pierce admits it has been a challenge for some riders to figure out the new service.

"And certainly the other challenge is you know many have probably found other options for them to get to work or to get to their destinations and they're kind of maybe sticking to those," she said.

Hope to return to 7,000 a day

Pierce expected the number of passengers would be lower when the buses first came back, but says Codiac Transpo is doing its best to make the system work.

Some of the other changes include more buses on 30-minute loops, reduced travel times, shorter waits at transfer points and the ability to expand or contract routes based on rider demand trends.

Pierce hopes to see ridership eventually return to about 7,000 passengers a day.

Codiac Transpo operates in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe.

The City of Moncton locked out about 80 bus drivers, mechanics and service people on June 27, with wages being a key stumbling block.

The city and union representing the locked out workers ratified a deal on Nov. 30. Council voted unanimously and the union voted 91 per cent in favour.

The 9.2-year collective agreement includes an average annual increase of 2.58 per cent.