The streamlined No. 1 Vedder bus route now runs every 20 minutes in a north-south direction

The streamlined No. 1 Vedder bus route now runs every 20 minutes in a north-south direction

Riders call for express bus between Chilliwack and Abby

Most riders surveyed say they're happy with recent changes to bus routes in Chilliwack, but would like an express to Abbotsford.

The new Vedder-Yale corridor bus that comes every 20 minutes in Chilliwack is a big hit, according to the 2012 Transit Survey.

A full 60 per cent of recent survey respondents said the fact that the No. 1 Vedder bus runs more frequently was the “main reason” why bus service is better now than before transit improvements were implemented last July.

Rod Sanderson, city transportation manager reported to Chilliwack council Tuesday that 350 surveys were completed aboard buses, at the mall, and at city hall. He shared select results of the survey with council, reflecting data and numbers collected by city and transit officials over the past five months.

A solid 55 per cent said they were “very interested” in an express bus service between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. That number jumps to 74 per cent, if the 19 per cent who said they were “somewhat interested” is added.

The survey took a crack at rating the transit system now compared to before, with its streamlined routes, more direct service to Walmart and Stream and UFV, and more.

A total of 40 per cent rated it either a little better or much better.

Asked to name the main reason transit is worse now compared to before July 2012, they cited reasons like: nearest stop too far to walk (32 per cent) or areas not being served (21 per cent) or 18 per cent who said the bus routes and stops had moved and changed.

Fourteen per cent said it was “less accessible” for seniors and disabled riders.

A full 34 per cent of respondents asked for service improvements that would see increased service hours, starting earlier or going later in the day. Another 32 per cent asked for better neighbourhood route service to reduce the distance they have to walk to a bus stop.

There was a seven per cent rise in ridership over the same period last year.

“So that’s encouraging,” said Sanderson.

He described the No. 1 route as carrying most of the weight of the system.

Councillor Ken Popove noted the increase in ridership.

“That’s great, but still in neighbourhoods sometimes we can see buses lumbering around with no one in them.”

Sanderson said they’ll be reviewing survey results and will “geolocate” where some of the issues are arising with senior and mobility challenged transit riders. He said they’re looking to make further improvements in 2014.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said one of the challenges is how buses will be full in the early mornings, but ridership will see a lag by midday, before getting busy again in late afternoon.

“Some people asked why not use smaller buses,” but it’s not that simple.

Sanderson added that while fleet mobility is essential, Chilliwack doesn’t have a large enough fleet to have more than one-size bus.

Mayor Gaetz said many riders commented they didn’t know that a monthly transit pass could be written off, and that taxi saver coupons for cab fare is available for about half the price for those eligible.

“There are lots of advantages of riding the bus,” she said. “I’m glad we now have the opportunity to put our bikes on the rack in the front of the bus before they go up the hill to Promontory. It’s working well.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno