Transit rates will be increasing in 2021 and the regular bus service on Saturday will be discontinued for at least one year. 

The move was passed unanimously by city council during budget deliberations on Wednesday night. 

Para-transit fares will be going up from $0.50 to $1.50 per trip and regular transit will go up from $1.25 to $2.25 per trip beginning Feb. 1, 2021. 

The city estimates that the subsidy to run the bus service six days a week at the current rates would be $1.2 million in 2020 and $1.3 million in 2021. 

City manager Jim Puffalt said Saturday ridership has been traditionally low. It was discontinued during the pandemic and replace with a dial-a-bus service that averaged two calls per Saturday. 

An average of 180 passengers used the Saturday service when it returned in September, which equated to $8.39 per trip. 

“We want a service that fits in with our parameters that we've tried to establish when we do budgets and there's no point in running a service or having a building open if there are no customers,” Puffalt said. “If that's the case we will close the building down.” 

The Saturday bus service will be discontinued for a one-year trial period to determine the impact and need for the service in the community. 

For the remainder of the week, the cost is about $7.10 per trip on average. 

In 2017, the city reduced fares in an attempt to increase ridership from $3 to $1.25 for regular transit and $3 to $0.50 for para-transit. 

Coun. Heather Eby made the motion to increase the rates, saying the city is subsidizing the service too much and the new rates to still much lower than they were in 2017. 

Coun. Dawn Luhning was in favour of the motion but questioned whether it goes far enough. 

“I really thought that we should have maybe taken the opportunity, I hate to say it, but when the pandemic happened in March and April,” she said.  

“We should have possibly looked at maybe stopping transit completely except for paratransit and seeing how it went.” 

A business case will also be prepared for the 2022 budget to determine a return to 30-minute routes from the current 40-minute routes. 

Director of Financial Services Brian Acker said these measures would lower the proposed mill rate increase to 1.79 per cent.