July 17th, 2024

Transit numbers improving

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on June 26, 2024.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A City transit bus waits to turn toward the downtown transit hub. Council heard a report on the status of City Transit which shows increased performance and a financial surplus.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

More people are using Lethbridge Transit than ever and on Tuesday, city council approved a resolution to direct administration to reinvest annual surpluses back into operations.

The department had a surplus of $312,000 at the end of 2023 after three years of annual deficits of more than $1 million each year. It’s on track to do better this year.

Council was told by Transportation and Transit general manager Darwin Juell that about $140,000 is being put into a new five-day-per-week Access-a-Ride shift starting this week to deal with capacity issues.

Juell also told council that peak busing hours are getting “extremely busy” at what is now going to be known as Lethbridge Polytechnic so for other monies in the surplus, it might consider putting a peak hour or two-hour bus on Route 62 if it continues with a 2024 surplus.

And it might re-invest another shift into Access-a-Ride at a later date, Juell said, to deal with additional capacity.

The number of Access-a-Ride customers saw a 71 per cent increase between 2021 and 2023.

A report presented to council on Tuesday by Juell says that after implementing multiple changes in recent years, Transit is focusing on punctual delivery of existing routes and limiting significant change in the near future.

The report says that on-time performance in 2024 is 82 per cent, a seven per cent improvement since 2019 and one per cent better than the 2023 mark.

The goal, says Juell’s report, is 85 per cent within five minutes of departure time.

In the first quarter of 2024 on-time performance of buses was 82 per cent, with 13 per cent late and in 2023 it was 81 per cent with 13 per cent late. OTP in 2019 was 75 per cent on time and 19 per cent early with the report noting buses should never leave early which will leave passengers stranded.

The report says improvements to customer service and service delivery have helped to increase ridership by 31 per cent between 2022-23. There has been a further increase in customers per day ridership of 35 per cent between 2023 and the end of March, 2024.

The increase exceeds the highest CPD level pre-pandemic “making the first quarter of 2024 Lethbridge Transit’s highest ridership level ever,” says the report.

The department is working on improving its U-Pass strategy which includes ongoing negotiations with the University of Lethbridge on a new contract.

A transit advisory committee is going to be established this year to provide feedback and guidance to Transit and other transit hubs will be finished this year which will establish more amenities for riders along major routes.

“We know budgets are extremely tight across all City departments, and the strides Lethbridge Transit have been able to make to reduce their budget are helping to minimize the pressure on Lethbridge taxpayers,” said Mayor Blaine Hyggen in a release sent to media after the meeting.

“I also want to thank our transit riders for their patience and understanding as we work towards a system that is successful and sustainable,” said the mayor.

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