Councillor worried riders will give up on transit

An Owen Sound councillor says she is concerned about how public transit will fare after the city implements the cost-cutting measures approved by council.

“I think we’re cutting the transit system by nicks and cuts all the way through,” Coun. Colleen Purdon said during a meeting Monday.

“I’m concerned that our ridership — when we have so many cuts — there will be just a cumulative effect where people will just kind of give up on transit.”

Purdon’s comments were made just before council approved another reduction to the service.

This time, it voted to stop running buses 90 minutes earlier on Saturdays starting Oct. 1. Buses will begin their final route that day at 4 p.m. instead of 5:30 p.m. The change is expected to yield a net savings of $18,880 to $23,800 a year.

Council has already decided to close the downtown bus terminal, hike fares by 10% on Aug. 1 and again in 2014 and 2015 and add global positioning system (GPS) technology on each bus. Those measures are expected to trim about $93,000 from the $1.7 million cost to operate the system.

City council has put off a decision on whether to switch from a four-route, 30-minute-per-route system to a three-route system, which is expected to save about $190,000 a year.

The city will soon seek bids for a new contract for operating the transit service. Staff has been asked to include in the RFP a request for bidders to submit quotes for both systems. Council will then decide which one to go with.

Operations director Brad McRoberts said an average of 9,400 passengers use Owen Sound Transit between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. About 1,100 ride the bus, on average, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

It will cost about $20,000 to operate buses on a three-route network during the final 90 minutes of the Saturday schedule, he said. The cost is closer to $25,000 with the current four-route system. The city will lose about $1,200 in transit fare revenue by ending early.

“That’s a significant saving by a very small reduction and it makes sense to me,” said Coun. Peter Lemon, who moved the motion.

Owen Sound’s public transit system, which carries about 300,000 passengers each year, is expected to cost property taxpayers $1.2 million this year, about $500,000 more than the cost in 2012.

City officials say about $190,000 a year in maintenance and repair costs would be saved if three new replacement buses are purchased. The city has enough money set aside in a reserve fund for transit to afford the purchase.

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