It wasn’t that long ago that Chilliwack’s transit system was, quite frankly, an embarrassment.
When the buses did run, they ran mostly empty, along routes meandering through town that hadn’t been altered in years.
All that changed with a major overhaul of the system 2013. Routes were redefined, service enhanced and frequency increased.
It was the largest expansion of its kind in the city’s history.
And the public welcomed it.
Within a year ridership had climbed nearly 19 per cent.
Further expansion followed in 2014, and ridership increased again.
Now, after a brief hiatus last year, Chilliwack’s transit system is set to grow again.
On Tuesday council approved the next phase in the system’s evolution with increased frequency on key routes, and expansion into growing pockets of population.
And that’s how it should be.
Transit systems are like restaurants: If the food’s bad and the service slow, no one will eat there.
Conversely, if we build a transit system that is attuned to community needs – that takes people where they need to go, when they need to be there – the public will use it.
Of course, all this costs money. And the expansion approved Tuesday will increase that cost.
But a vibrant and well used transit system is also an investment.
It takes vehicles off the road, lessening the strain on infrastructure.
It fuels economic growth by ensuring employees have an affordable and reliable route to work.
It provides mobility to people who might otherwise have no other means of transport, either by choice or by circumstance.
And it adds one more piece to the growing number of assets that make Chilliwack a vibrant and appealing place to live and do business.
Thankfully, city councillors agree. They’re opting for an aggressive expansion that will add another seven buses to the fleet over the next three years, and expand service to areas like Yarrow and Greendale.
It’s one more sign Chilliwack’s growing up. But in a good way.