This morning York Region's Transportation Services Committee held their monthly meeting, and there was good news on the agenda: Ridership rose an estimated 15.1% year-over-year in March (PDF link), meeting and even slightly exceeding the trend of double-digit growth in ridership seen before last year's labour strike. (For comparison, the highest growth figure reported last year was 14.6%, in August [PDF link].)
This is significant because it suggests YRT's plan to attract riders back with two months of free service worked: Despite a slow start in February, in March there were as many riders using the system as would have been expected had the strike never occurred. Of course, what remains to be seen is how many riders continued to use the service after the free period expired. And we won't know that until ridership figures for April become available, later this month.
Other items mentioned in the agenda include:
The YRT/Viva Enforcement annual report for 2011 (PDF link), which among other things shows Viva riders are becoming more honest: Although more riders were
inspectedin 2011, only 1.38% were caught without fare versus 1.6% in 2010.
A recommendation (PDF link) to amend the agreement with the City of Toronto that currently allows Viva Orange to operate on part of the busway (the dedicated roadway) that connects York University to the Downsview subway station. Essentially, Toronto has asked the Region to begin paying an extra $80,000 per year for the right to continue using the busway, to help the city defray the costs of having constructed it in the first place.
The recommendation is to agree to pay this sum since—get this—the five minutes shaved off Viva Orange's travel time by using the busway adds up to a savings of $256,000 per year in reduced operating expenses. (And that, riders, is why operating costs—which are predominantly labour costs—matter.)
A recommendation (PDF link) to provide an additional $6.6 million in payment to Ultramar, which supplies the fuel used to operate conventional (non-Viva) YRT buses. This money will effectively
top upthe existing purchase order. Reasons given for the expenditure include the rising cost of diesel fuel, the price of which has gone up an eyebrow-raising 38% since 2010; and the new north-division contract with Tok Transit, which apparently stipulated the Region would supply fuel for those buses. (The previous contractor, First Canada, was responsible for purchasing its own fuel.)
A request (PDF link) to award contracts to Royal Taxi, Care Accessible Transportation and Mobility Transportation Specialists for operating portions of Mobility Plus. Each of these contracts is worth just shy of $12 million—paratransit is big business!