People in Belleville are jumping on the buses more than ever.
Belleville’s transit system ridership nearly hit the million mark in 2017.
Transit Chair Councillor Jack Miller told city council Monday night that it would have happened had there not been a strike at Loyalist College last fall.
Miller said there was “an incredible uptick in ridership.” Ridership jumped 9.3% in 2017 and hit 996,794 by the end of December.
Miller says the system is very important to workers.
He says a number of changes in the bus routes have paid off, particularly route three to the industrial park and Quinte Mall.
City transit hours will be extended to midnight on a new test run tailored to better service a growing number of people needing transit after the current 9 p.m. cutoff.
Riders across the city, including those doing shift work in the North East Industrial Park, called for the extended hours, which will cost the city about $200,000 extra to fund the piloting of a new flexible route and will see drivers be able to deviate from the main route and bring passengers closer to their actual destination, upon request.
“We’re running an extended route, that isn’t a traditional route,” Miller said. “It’s going to cover all of the city at key points. We’re going to get you close to where you need to go. The other side is getting you to work late at night.”
Commenting on possible bus service to Thurlow ward, Miller said it was tried it twice into residential areas and it wasn’t being used.
Work on the $1.4-million transit garage expansion is expected to go ahead in the spring. He said leaving buses outside is not “optimum for the equipment.”
Councillor Egerton Boyce pointed out that Belleville Sens fans who take the shuttle bus to the hockey game Wednesday have the opportunity to ride the electric bus and “see what the future is all about.”