Transit riders in the Regional District of Nanaimo will have to continue to dig a litte deeper this summer.
The RDN Transit Select Committee rejected during its May 24 meeting a proposal to offer a pilot study for a $1 fare in the RDN Transit system, to be offered to commuters this coming summer from July to August.
The RDN board of directors in April directed staff to draft a report on the pilot project, which was proposed by the Town of Qualicum Beach for routes in the Qualicum Beach area. Mayor Teunis Westbroek made the motion that was forwarded to the RDN board, which endorsed the suggestion in April.
BC Transit and RDN staff conducted a fare change analysis and the results, distributed during the Transit Select Committee’s meeting on May 24, brought the plan to a screeching halt.
If implemented, the report indicated, the $1 fare would have an adverse effect on the transit system. The analysis factored in reducing all prepaid fare products by 60 per cent, which is the same percentage as a $2.50 cash fare being reduced to $1.
The staff report pointed out that the financial impact of the proposed fare reduction has not been incorporated into the RDN 2018 budget and that taxpayers would end up bearing the extra burden of funding the shortfall. Reducing fares could also lead to a short-term increase in ridership, but the study showed there is no indication as to whether this will equate to the recruitment of new, long-term transit users.
Over the course of the summer, from July through August, the projected ridership increases by 18% but revenue decreases by $260,332, according to the RDN study.
Other negative effects of a $1 fare include potential overcrowding on buses, which could deter current regular transit users, and impacts on regular fare programs and vendors.
“It is not recommended introducing another fare change in such a short period of time as it would likely result in confusion for transit customers,” fleet and transit services superintendent Brandon Miller indicated in his report to the committee.
“In addition, raising fares back to the regular rate at the end of summer would likely cause further confusion and public backlash.”
Staff recommended the RDN retain the current fare structure and not reduce the amount for this coming summer.