The end of summer has brought about the end of a Cape Breton pilot project that allowed transit users to ride the bus for free.

For July and August, survey results from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality showed transit usage surged.

"Ridership went up between 200 to 300 per cent over the course of the two months we had the free service," said Mayor Cecil Clarke.

Ridership data

The program was launched earlier this year as a means of promoting transit service in hopes of increasing ridership. Throughout the program, CBRM gathered data to help determine how the service can better meet user needs.

Survey results showed close to 40 per cent of people who used the service didn't own a vehicle.

Over 50 per cent of riders used the service to get to work, appointments and go shopping.

One-third of riders, like Krista Gullage, wanted to see the bus service run later and on Sundays.

"I don't know if we can't afford to have the buses run more frequently or they just don't want to have the buses run more frequently," she said.

$80,000 cost to taxpayers

The program cost taxpayers $80,000 and while it enticed some people to take the bus more often, others say they have seen ridership decline sharply since the end of the program.

CBRM says it will take about a month to measure the success of the program. Meanwhile, the United Way in Sydney has jumped aboard with a six-month pilot project of its own to help low-income families afford transit passes, which it hopes to have running by October.

On Monday, CBRM also announced it will purchase a new Handi-Trans vehicle this winter with the help of a $45,000 provincial grant. Handi-Trans is a wheelchair-accessible bus to help people who can't use the regular bus.

With files from Gary Mansfield