Confession time. I have never ridden on a Codiac Transpo bus.
Shocking? Not really. It seems like a lot of folks haven’t.
Technically, Codiac Transpo serves about 130,000 residents in Moncton, Dieppe, and Riverview. I live outside municipal limits, so I’d have to drive or bike to even get to a bus, so it’s maybe not surprising I haven’t been a frequent rider. But of those 130,000 people whose taxes (about $11 per household) should be able to access the bus routes, only a few thousand use the service each day.
According to Codiac Transpo, ridership peaked in 2011 with roughly 2.5 million bus rides that year. A labour dispute the following year impacted use and things haven’t quite recovered. In 2015 the bus service reported ridership statistics of 2,486,590, which dropped to 2,307,725 in 2016. Not a stellar usage rate yet, despite lots of effort on the part of Codiac Transpo to encourage folks to hop on. You can enjoy free wifi, there’s an app to check bus locations and schedules, and even I’ve noticed the inviting marketing campaigns. Rides were even free all this week to celebrate Environment Week. Did you take advantage? If not, and you live downtown or on a route, why didn’t you? It’s interesting to try to understand why the bus isn’t top of mind for more residents.
I’ll be curious to see if upcoming changes in our communities start moving the ridership numbers up again. The City of Moncton is certainly hoping more people will use the bus as an option for attending downtown events. The big draws at the new centre are expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 people into the city’s core at a time. With only about 3,000 parking spots within walking distance, and a limited number of taxis in the area, one would assume public transit will become a more common option for many.
The Mayor of Dieppe has an interesting opinion on what might increase ridership: free rides, all the time. Yvon Lapierre suggested waiving Codiac Transpo fares following this week’s release of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce’s Community Report Card. The organization polled 500 local residents on various issues, including bus service. Most of the respondents appear not to be riders, either: about half didn’t know enough about the bus service to comment. This prompted Mayor Lapierre to suggest that transportation is an area in which our communities can improve, particularly if we want to be environmentally responsible.
Free fares are a great idea, but one that’s unlikely to come to fruition. While Dieppe pays “not even a penny of our tax rate” on the service, according to the mayor, Riverview’s Mayor Ann Seamans says the two routes serving her town are “heavily subsidized.” Moncton’s Mayor Dawn Arnold, a transit user, highlights the lack of population density that impacts use of Codiac Transpo. (The City of Moncton has 16 bus routes, compared to Dieppe’s three routes and Riverview’s two.)
Perhaps Dieppe will begin purchasing passes to hand out its residents, who could then use the bus service for free, as Mayor Lapierre envisions. The other partners in Codiac Transpo wouldn’t be impacted financially and if more Dieppe residents were using the bus, perhaps Moncton and Riverview riders would follow the trend, even if it means paying out of pocket. A bus ride on Codiac Transpo is $2.25, one of the lowest public transportation fares in the Maritimes.
I’ve been a frequent public transit user in other cities and I do hope use increases here. It really is a fabulous way to enjoy any city, even if it takes a little longer to get where you’re going.