Transit Windsor 'not operationally prepared' for 22% ridership increase
Report says increase is 'well above the industry trend' of less than 2% increase
There were nearly 1.5-million more one-way trips on Transit Windsor buses in 2018 compared to the year before.
That's a 22 percent jump in ridership compared to the previous year, something the head of the public transit company said he's "very proud of" but also presents challenges.
"We had numerous overload issues," said Pat Delmore, the executive director of Transit Windsor.
"We still have some challenges in trying to meet the needs of the service but I think for the most part we've kind of settled it up and gotten the service where we need to have it now."
Student fares up 54% in 2018
A report prepared by Transit Windsor's Manager of Operations for the City of Windsor attributes the jump in ridership "to the nearly 5,000 new international students attending St. Clair College."
"Transit Windsor was not operationally prepared for the significant increase," states the report, adding that buses on routes that serviced St. Clair College "have had numerous issues of passengers being bypassed by overloaded buses."
Express trips were created but people were still being passed by buses during peak hours, according to the report.
The report showed a decease in one-way fares across all categories except for student fares, where an additional 1,677,346 trips were recorded. That's an increase of 54 per cent compared to the previous year.
More money needed
Transit Windsor has recently brought in an extended bus for a pilot project, as well as increased triip frequencies on certain routes to try meeting the demands for service.
The Dominion 5 and South Windsor 7 routes, which service the college's main campus, had ridership double in 2018.
Delmore hopes that student ridership numbers are maintained in 2019 but said more money is needed to meet service demands.
"Certainly can't do it within the current budget," he said, adding that the costs are covered in a 50/50 split between fares and the municipality.
Delmore also noted that an increase in ridership means an expected increase in the Provincial Gas Tax Program, where some of that money could come from.
U-Pass safe, says Delmore
Another recent concern for Transit Windsor was Ontario's plan to let students opt-out of ancillary programs at university or colleges which Delmore feared would include bus passes.
"Students will not be able to opt-out of U-Pass programs and that's very positive for communities," said Delmore.
System review underway
A consultant is currently reviewing the Transit Windsor service to find ways to improve the system and has recently completed the public feedback phase.
"We heard a lot of feedback about more frequent service, more service on the weekends, on evenings and on Sundays," said Delmore.
One of the things under review is the current routing system, which has been in place since the late 1970s according to Delmore, describing the current system as "piecemealed" together while the city grows.
"When you see ridership numbers that are increasing like this it's time for us to grow with the city and provide the level of service that riders are looking for."