In hopes of boosting ridership midway through Meaford's public transit pilot project, council has agreed to a recommendation to lower the fare for the service from $4 to $2 beginning April 1.
In July of last year, council passed a resolution directing staff to develop a fixed-route conventional transit system that would operate in concert with the specialized accessible transit services that have been offered by the municipality for several years, on a one-year pilot program with a fare of $4 per trip. The Pilot program soft-launched in mid-September featuring a 30-minute loop to provide transit services from the Valumart Plaza to the Medical Clinic with several stops in between.
At their March 13 meeting, a staff report noted that the $4 might be a barrier to many users, and they recommended lowering the fare.
“At the February 6, 2017 Council meeting, a member of Council inquired about the current fare structure and the potential of lowering it to entice more ridership,” noted the report from staff. “Prior to the pilot project being implemented, in-town fare rates were set at $2 per trip. Staff recommended establishing an increased fare of $4 which was generally half the fare charged by taxi companies operating in the Municipality. Statistical data provided through the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) illustrated that the average fare for a conventional service for under 25,000 population was $3.43.”
In February The Meaford Independent researched the cash fare rates of municipal transit systems in Ontario and found that fares ranged from $2 per trip in municipalities like Clearview and Collingwood to a high of $4 in Vaughan. The average fare of 20 municipalities of varying sizes was $2.67 per trip making Meaford's $4 fare a full 50 percent above the average of those 20 municipalities.
In their report, staff noted that they are projecting a $4,000 deficit for the transit program this year based on the current ridership. Meaford Treasurer Darcy Chapman suggested that cutting the fare in half could double the deficit to $8,000 if ridership remained the same after the fare reduction, however, if ridership increases with the reduced fare, that deficit could shrink.
In addition to lowering the cash fare for the service, staff has also restructured the route for the transit bus.
“Engagement has occurred with the conventional and specialized transit users, the bus operator (First Student), and the bus driver. Based on feedback, staff quickly realized that a current stop on the route was extremely underutilized compared to the rest. Although there was great proximity to the dog park, Memorial Park, and the residential area of Beachvale, the 'dog park' stop at the corner of Aiken and Grant streets has hardly been utilized in the last 5+ months,” noted the report from staff. “Staff is suggesting a change to the route which eliminates serving the Beachvale area given the underutilization combined with the length of time it takes to service this area.”
A revised route map shows that “stops have been included at Union & Louisa street, Roger Plaza, St. Vincent & Margaret street, Boucher and Sykes street, Museum/McCarrol Park and Grandview Drive & Helen street. As well, alterations have been made near the Meaford Long Term Care Centre and the Meaford & St. Vincent Community Centre realigning both stops on to Thompson Street at William and Collingwood.”
“Staff feel this route restructuring provides the greatest benefit for users as it links the grocery store, medical clinic, hospital, both pharmacies and the downtown for banking needs all of which are considered to be very much essential in a person’s day-to-day life,” noted the report to council.