New Brunswick

Fredericton public transit survey gets unexpected response

City of Fredericton receives overwhelming response to latest public transit survey that's going on this month.

40% of those who've completed the public survey aren't bus riders

Just under 1,200 surveys have been completed in the public transit study aimed at improving bus service in Fredericton. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The City of Fredericton says its survey on public public transit has drawn an overwhelming response.

Almost 1,200 of the online surveys have been completed, 40 per cent of them by non-riders, said a spokesperson for the firm running the project.

"People are very interested in voicing their opinions," said Sasha Pejcic, managing associate with Stantec, who described it as one of the most "robust uptakes" he has ever seen in a survey of its kind.

The city recently hired the engineering firm to prepare a strategic plan for Fredericton Transit. The work includes the survey, which asks people about their experience using city buses, the cost, whether they'd take advantage of specific improvements and what would make them use public transit more often.

The project is reviewing all transit routes in the city, which carry 800,000 passengers a year, and studying ways to boost ridership. 

Coun. Henri Mallet says he's pleased people are taking an interest in public transit. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"It's always nice to see those large numbers," Coun. Henri Mallet, who also chairs the city's transportation committee, said of the survey response.

"People want to be engaged and I don't think we can be surprised anymore, but it's nice to see that people want to be heard and want to be part of the discussion." 

The survey, available on the city's website, can be filled out until Feb. 9.

An "idea bus," where people are encouraged to tell their stories and share ideas on how to make improvements to the transit system, was set up earlier this week.  

The people have spoken

The most common piece of feedback deals with Sunday service, and Pejcic said the topic needs discussing.

"There's a lot of people that need to get out," he said. "Life doesn't end on Saturday night."

But Sunday service comes at a price — about $500,000 a year.

If you want me to give up my car, I need 100 per cent availability, I need to be able to live life.-Sasha Pejcic, managing associate with Stantec

"We'll wait until the report comes in [and] we'll see what the consultant recommends," said Mallet.

"Then we'll need to have really good discussions around the council table, looking at what we can do, what we can't do and what we can offer."  

But Pejcic said better service requires more money. City residents aren't getting full service.

"You're essentially saying, 'I'm going to give you 85 per cent transit a week, not 100 per cent,'" he said.

"If you want me to give up my car, I need 100 per cent availability, I need to be able to live life."

A major project

The $90,000 cost of the project is being split with the federal government.

Mallet said it's been almost 10 years since the city did its last major transit plan and it's time for an update.

The review will also look at "home-to-hub" bus service, where riders can call or book online for smaller transit vehicles to pick them up where fixed routes don't work as well and drop them off at a regular transit stop.

Pejcic said the City of Oakville, Ont., saw an 80 per cent ridership increase when it started offering that service.

"It's accessing transit, it's first-mile, last-mile solution," he said. "A lot of people want to ride but the service offering is poor."