Council learns removing bus fares is a boon to ridership

May 25, 2023   ·   0 Comments


Local public transportation use has increased dramatically since it was made free to ride Orangeville buses.

Town council got a look at the public transit ridership numbers when it met on May 15. Ridership has increased 71 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same months in 2019.

As many as 8,322 riders used transit in January 2019, compared to 12,846 in January 2023, for a 54 per cent increase.

Town buses carried 7,502 riders in February 2019, compared to 12,716 in February 2023, for a 70 per cent increase.

In March 2019, 9,393 riders rode buses. In March 2023, ridership was 17,437. That’s an increase of 86 per cent.

Staff used 2019 as the baseline for the analysis as some of the data for 2020, 2021, and 2022 may have been somewhat skewed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other restrictions imposed on transit systems by the provincial government.

The data indicates the number of monthly users is trending upward over the same period in 2019. 

Councillor Joe Andrews said it’s encouraging news, given a number of residents criticized Orangeville council’s decision to remove fares from public transportation. 

“I still stand by our decision,” he said. “I think this is an absolute win for our community.”

That shows in the number of people who are riding the municipal buses but couldn’t use them before fares were removed.

“It’s validating the decision,” Andrews said.

Deputy Mayor Todd Taylor spoke about how he adamantly opposed dropping fares on municipal transit. There hasn’t been an issue that he and Mayor Lisa Post disagreed on more than the issue of free transit.

“I’m so pleased to see that I’m wrong,” he said and added that he’s thrilled to pay up on the beer bet with the mayor.

But, he said, even though ridership stats are favourable, financial information has yet to be tabled.

Post said she’s heard from senior citizens who would previously budget one return bus ride a week to the grocery store. Now those riders are using transit more frequently.

“I was definitely encouraged to see the ridership numbers increase as much as they have,” Post said.

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