Nova Scotia

Halifax airport bus filled with empty seats

The latest numbers from Metro Transit suggest ridership on the new airport bus is so low, the bus will have a difficult time reaching standards set by the bus company.

Route is also designed for Fall River commuters

The bus service to Fall River and the airport began a year ago. (Phonse Jessome/CBC)

A bus route that many in Halifax said was long overdue is struggling to fill seats.

The latest numbers from Metro Transit suggest ridership on the new airport bus is so low, the bus will have a difficult time reaching standards set by the bus company.

Route 320 to the airport was started in May, 2012. It was designed for airport passengers, and also as a commuter service for Fall River.

But in a report to Halifax Regional Municipality, Metro Transit said the bus has an average of 13 passengers per hour during the day, and only three per hour in the evening.

Almost all Metro Transit routes operate at a loss. MetroX Routes such as the airport run are expected to recover at least 50 per cent of costs during weekdays, and 30 per cent of costs on evenings and weekends.

The airport run's results are just a fraction of that. Metro Transit estimates that on weekdays the route recovers 12 percent of its costs. In the evenings, that number goes down to four per cent.

No expectations

In a statement from the city on behalf of Metro Transit, a spokesperson said building a new service takes time.

"Cost recovery from any route is more of a goal than a required standard," the statement reads. "The industry standard in judging the success of a route is the number of passengers/hour. And more specifically, what the number is in peak times."

The city said the peak time for this route is between Fall River and downtown in the morning and in the afternoon. It said there were no expectations for this route when it started.

When it implements new routes, Metro Transit said it takes into consideration the fact that ridership takes time to grow. New routes are generally given 24 months to get their ridership numbers up to standard.

Metro Transit sent those numbers in a report to this Tuesday's regional council. The report contains the bus service’s proposals for the 2013/2014 fiscal year. Council will debate the report before approving the transit budget.

On the other hand, the park and ride lot in Fall River is packed. It has capacity for 91 vehicles and Metro Transit said it plans to expand the space in the next year.

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