“Bus service is here to stay,” says the T3 owner, as ridership picks up again
The bus company, which provides transport in Charlottetown, Stratford and Cornwall, is on the road to success, its owner says, having operated an average of 100,000 bus trips a month for the past five months.
This is in contrast to T3 Transit’s first full year of service in 2006, when the government-subsidized company took just 112,000 passenger tickets in the full 12 months.
“When you look back at the dark days of COVID and what we’ve been through with limited ridership, it’s so nice to have 2022-2023 back in the game,” said Mike Cassidy, owner of T3 Transit, in an interview on Tuesday.
“Thank God COVID didn’t destroy everything we had built.”
Cassidy called the figure of 100,000 riders “an achievement for a small capital city,” especially given that managers were fairly happy with the pre-COVID peak figure of 74,000 fares per month in 2019.
In total, the bus company provided 869,000 trips in 2022, compared to 700,000 in 2019.
“Transit is needed, Transit is used,” Cassidy said. “Busing is here to stay – no question about it.”
Added more buses to important routes
Some popular routes have recently added additional pickup times and new routes are being tested to keep up with demand.
“We were trying to add hours,” Cassidy said, noting that University Avenue now has 15-minute service in the morning and evening rush hours.
UPEI student Nayana Sunila is from India and ideally wants the University Avenue bus to come every five minutes during peak times.
“It’s very difficult in winter because we’re not used to this climate,” she laughs. “We’re literally just frozen.”
But she added: “The hospitality and everything on the bus is really good. And I appreciate all of those things. It’s better than my country.”
“The future looks good”
The City of Charlottetown contributes $2.3 million each year to subsidize the bus service and has also provided some temporary funds to help T3 deal with increases in ridership.
count. Terry Bernard, chair of the city’s Environment and Sustainability Committee, said he was “very pleased” that monthly ridership had hit the 100,000 mark, given how slow uptake was when the service launched in 2005.
“It’s grown well, especially in the last two years,” said Bernard. “We add routes as they are needed.”
He pointed out that the city is considering building a structure near T3 Transit’s headquarters to charge the six new electric buses that are now on order, among others.
“Obviously high gas prices have pushed people into the transit system, they’ve been comfortable with it, and the best advertising is word of mouth,” Bernard said.
“The future looks bright for mass transit in and around Charlottetown.”
Discount passes popular
Programs funded by the province have also helped attract horse riders. Those under 18 ride for free, and monthly passes are subsidized, costing $20 for adults and $10 for seniors and students 18 and older.
Cassidy said T3 is “now moving 450 youth a day in our system” as a result of the freeride program for that age group.
The provincial funding that allows the company to offer the free and discounted passes is in place until at least March 31, Cassidy said. He expects good news about the continuation in the next state budget.