BC Transit is planning to implement larger buses connecting Burns Lake, Smithers and Prince George with a seating capacity of 30.
The buses that are currently used on the 161 and 162 routes have a sitting capacity of 20, but ridership on the new Hwy. 16 bus service has been exceeding expectations.
An incident of passenger pass-up due to a full bus in the new Hwy. 16 bus system has recently been reported. It occurred in Vanderhoof on Saturday, Sept. 30, with two passengers left behind. This was the third recorded instance of pass-ups occurring since the service began last June, with the first two occurring in August.
According to regional transit coordinator Deneve Vanderwolf, in a transit system as new as the Bulkley-Nechako system, it is difficult to determine the most appropriate way to address the situation when there has only been three instances of pass-ups occurring.
Two of the three instances have occurred on a Saturday, with the first instance likely attributed to the B.C. Northern Exhibition in Prince George.
“Beyond that, there is no pattern that can be identified from these few occurrences,” said Vanderwolf.
The first two pass-up instances have been discussed at internal operational meetings at BC Transit and the third incidence was discussed during an operational meeting on Oct. 10.
Although there are no confirmed delivery dates, BC Transit estimates the larger buses could be implemented as early as summer 2018. In the meantime, an extra bus will be available as a contigency plan on the afternoon trip from Prince George to Burns Lake.
“We will continue to monitor the service in partnership with our local operating company and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to determine if further steps are feasible,” said Jonathon Dyck, a spokesperson for BC Transit.
In August, route 161 – from Burns Lake to Prince George – had 316 passengers. Route 162 – from Burns Lake to Smithers – had 123 passengers. BC Transit has also been analyzing why more people are using the service between Burns Lake and Prince George.
Based on ridership data for route 161 to the end of August, the average ridership per trip is 10.5 on the Burns Lake to Prince George morning trip, and 11 passengers on the Prince George to Burns Lake return trip.
The new Hwy. 16 bus service is part of a $6.4-million project intended to alleviate hitchhiking along the highway corridor.