City councillor Jason Lum hands out cookies and reflector lights to transit users Wednesday as part of a customer appreciation event.

Bus riders thanked with lights and cookies in Chilliwack

It was part celebration, and part recognition of the largest transit expansion in Chilliwack's history, with 7,500 additional service hours

Thank you, Chilliwack, for taking the bus!

That was the message from City of Chilliwack, BC Transit and elected reps, who were handing out cookies and reflector lights at a customer appreciation event at the downtown transit exchange Wednesday.

It was part celebration, and part official recognition of the largest transit expansion in Chilliwack’s history, with 7,500 additional service hours, statutory holiday service, and better routes.

“It’s a big deal,” said Coun. Jason Lum, chair of the transportation advisory committee, said of the considerable transit system growth.

It’s not just a significant expansion for Chilliwack, but B.C.-wide as well.

“It’s one of the largest expansions we’ve had across the province,” confirmed BC Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha. “It’s a reflection of the huge commitment City of Chilliwack has for growing transit.”

Chilliwack’s impressive 7,500 extra hours of bus service on offer for 2013 is equivalent to what the larger community of Victoria planned for its own system, he noted.

Also when route #1, started offering speedier service last summer with a bus every 20 minutes, the ridership numbers immediately spiked to record levels, and have been on the rise in Chilliwack ever since.

“It’s incredible to watch how the stats have just been rising, rising, rising,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

She thanked the local ridership, and those who offered detailed feedback on bus service during the transit plan consultations.

“People spoke to us and we listened.”

Last week, service hours were increased by more than 30 per cent, along with two new bus routes and better north/south connections to serve local schools and UFV.

“Through BC Transit we are connecting communities with fast, efficient, safe and affordable public transportation,” said MLA John Martin.

The transit boost means the university and other educational facilities around Chilliwack are rendered even “more accessible,” and that gives everyone the option of leaving the vehicles at home.

“We recognize how important public transportation is and that is why we have invested more than $96 million this year into BC Transit’s operations — the highest per capita transit investment in Canada,” he said.

Plus with the ability to order transit passes online, “taking the bus is easier than ever,” Martin added.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno