Increased GRT ridership gives region surplus of $1M

A five percent increase in transit ridership helped the Region of Waterloo gain $1 million in surplus this year.

Region says increase is due to college enrolment, service expansions and construction on King Street ending

As a result of increased ridership, more frequent buses and a new transit station are in the works over the next year. (Grand River Transit/ Twitter)

Based on reports released at the regional council meeting on Wednesday night, Waterloo Region is seeing a surplus of $1 million in its budget this year due to increased transit ridership. 

Peter Zinck, the region's director of transit services, says there's been a four to five percent increase in ridership compared to last year. 

"We've had a positive growth in ridership over the first portion of this year... that's led to increased revenues," he said. 

Zinck said the region is expecting to see 20.7 million trips taken on the Grand River Transit system by the end of this year. 

Last year, the GRT counted 19.5 to 19.7 million trips. 

Zinck says he believes the growth spiked because there's no longer construction on King Street from downtown Kitchener to uptown Waterloo. 

"Travel is quicker and more reliable through that area than it was before. We're seeing ridership increase for that reason," said Zinck. 

He says expanding the services on the 201 and 202 bus routes also helped, along with launching the new 205 express route on Ottawa Street. 

"Those are new services that are attracting riders," Zinck said.

As enrolment increased at Conestoga College, so has transit ridership. 

"Most of our ridership gains and revenue gains are coming from adult pass and college pass sales over 2017 to 2018,"  said Zinck. 

Expanding services in 2019 

With these trends, the GRT is preparing a service expansion plan for regional council to consider in the upcoming 2019 budget. 

In that plan, the GRT will be asking for service hours expansion for the 206 express route in Cambridge and a new bus terminal to be built at the Conestoga College Kitchener campus to address congestion. 

The new bus terminal is currently being negotiated with the college and discussed through the Upass referendum, Zinck says. 

"This would be a new facility, with waiting areas, bus shelters, bus space — typically of what you'd see at another satellite location we have throughout the region," said Zinck. 

If the terminal is approved by regional council and the college, it will be constructed next year and be open in September 2019.