Bus riders will return to paying fares on all B.C. Transit routes in Greater Victoria next month, as the company looks to restore service levels and rebound from approximately $6 million in losses across the province during the coronavirus pandemic.
B.C. Transit has been providing fare-free service on conventional, community and handyDART routes since March 19, when it made the move to rear-door boarding as a way of increasing physical distancing between passengers and drivers.
Front-door loading and collection of fares will resume June 1, as new safety measures come into effect, including installation of temporary vinyl panels for drivers on older buses.
While new vehicles in the B.C. Transit fleet come equipped with driver doors, older buses have to be retrofitted with vinyl panels to provide separation between the operator and customers, said B.C. Transit communications manager Jonathon Dyck.
“It will be a change for people when they get on the bus and see these vinyl panels,” he said. “But as we move through this process, we’re learning how to enhance other safety measures and return to standard practices.”
B.C. Transit ridership is down between 60 and 80 per cent across the province. In Victoria, that number is into “the high 70s,” Dyck said, as frequent riders have either transitioned to different modes of transportation or work from home.
He said when fare-free, rear-door loading came into effect March 19, 88 per cent of operating buses had 10 or fewer people on them.
Newly implemented safety measures are expected to remain in place in June, from the overnight cleaning of buses and increased cleaning at B.C. Transit facilities to new capacity limitations of 20 passengers on regular city buses and 40 on double-deckers.
“Those pieces are not going to change,” Dyck said.
Spring service came into effect April 6, including route reductions.
Further changes could take effect on select routes if ridership does not return. Dyck said B.C. Transit will monitor the situation as provincial health measures continue to change.
“We’re still evaluating if we will make any further changes, but we will keep the public up to date. We encourage people before they travel to check our website or call to get the latest information.”
For information, visit bctransit.com or call 250-382-6161.