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Transit fare increases to facilitate tech changes OK’d by council

Council has opted for Option 1 for transit fare increases.
Council has opted for Option 1 for transit fare increases.

City council has approved changes to transit fares that will see some increases but also result in high-tech changes for riders.

“The plan is to realize savings and align with new fare collection technology,” BC Transit’s Ryan Dennis told council Monday, adding the last fare change was five years ago. “The goal is to increase revenue and ridership.”

The new rates are designed to move riders away from using cash for a single fare and encourage buying a DayPASS, which will be available on the buses, as well as offering debit card, credit card purchase options, being able to pay using a phone app and check to see where their bus is.

“Cash is the most expensive fare to handle for transit, so BC Transit is looking towards more pre-paid fares,” he said.

The changes will also align transit in Prince George more with what is happening across the province by updating “fare collection technology.” He added Transit realizes not everyone has a smartphone so cash will still be an option.

Another change will be elimination of transfers, which, Dennis said, are the biggest cause of conflict between passengers and the drivers.

“What we’ve seen (in other communities) is increased in ridership because of the convenience of the day pass and more people buying monthly passes,” he said.

Staff has recommended slight increases in most rate categories, estimating it would increase revenue by $107,763 (6.3 per cent) and ridership by 49,298 (three per cent).

Automatic passenger counters, closed-circuit television cameras, and automatic vehicle location will provide data on the transit service to BC Transit.

Coun. Garth Frizzell pointed out that while one-way fares will cost more, two-way fares will cost less.

Coun. Cori Ramsay said she was concerned, at first, about the increase fares, but changed her mind when she saw the benefits to riders.

“After having a conversation about the things we want to do with transit and where we want it go, and how it’s going to benefit the passengers, that sold me,” she said. “The fact that we’re going be able to look at Google maps and see when the bus is coming or buy a day-pass on the bus, which you can’t do now, (are a benefit).”

The new fares will come into effect in September and other tech changes will be implemented by 2020.