The number of passengers left behind at bus stops is twice as high as predicted, say B.C. Transit planners, who are suggesting that post-secondary schools stagger class start times so that demand for service is less concentrated.
In one week of morning rush-hour commuting, more than 1,300 passengers were left behind by overloaded transit buses, according to data collected in September by B.C. Transit's new real-time tracking system.
At that rate, about 21,000 passengers could be left behind between September and the end of December - double the corporation's original estimates.
"Those numbers are really high and this is really frustrating for our riders," said Meribeth Burton, spokeswoman for B.C. Transit. "We need to see more investment in transit infrastructure, if we're going to see any improvements."
Transit last month introduced a tracking system that has bus drivers providing real-time information about the number of pass-ups along the busiest routes.
Most of the overloaded buses are in morning traffic, with the majority of passengers heading to Camosun College and the University of Victoria.
One of the most effective and least expensive solutions would be staggering morning-class schedules for post-secondary students, said Burton, but bus-priority lanes along Douglas Street - the busiest route in Greater Victoria - would allow buses to move faster, benefiting the entire system.
Changes could be in place by the start of the next school year. The Victoria Regional Transit Commission wants to have bus-priority lanes on its most congested corridors by September and UVic staff are talking about changing class schedules.
Both B.C. Transit and UVic's student union have been pushing the university to stagger morning-class start times to reduce congestion on routes such as the No. 4, which alone accounted for 668 pass-ups in one week in late September.
The No. 26 and No. 14 to UVic are also busy routes with frequent pass-ups. Wait times for the next bus are often five to 10 minutes, but some people wait up to half an hour.
"With a combination of transit improvements, including bus-priority lanes and staggered schedules from our partners at UVic and Camosun College, this would no longer be an issue," Burton said.
University staff say they are discussing changes to class times and are aiming for implementation by next September.
"The process is underway, but it takes some time," said Neil Connelly, director of campus planning and sustainability.
UVic also plans to build a new transit exchange on campus, which would increase the frequency of buses arriving and leaving. The current exchange is operating at capacity, with 51 buses rolling in and out between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday to Friday.
To reduce pass-ups, the transit commission added 5,000 bus hours to the system in September, largely targeting the busy routes.
Transit now has three buses dedicated to providing relief for congested routes. During morning peak times, those buses are deployed on routes as soon as drivers transmit pass-up information to dispatchers.