Decline in ridership
Rapibus’ first birthday: STO faces challenges
Gatineau’s biggest and most expensive infrastructure project is still struggling to produce its predicted results. Inaugurated on October 19, 2013, shortly before the 2013 municipal
election, the Rapibus’ first year of operation was marked by accidents, petitions, protests, and major adjustments. "The success of a project of this magnitude, the scope of which extends over several decades, can’t be measured in a single year," said STO Chairman Gilles Carpentier, October 17, as the STO reviewed its year. Mr. Carpentier reminded users that the STO’s previous network had reached its capacity and had to expand.
As well, Ottawa had asked the STO to limit the buses they send on their streets. The changes have reduced the number of buses lining Wellington Street, but has forced the discontinuation of express buses favoured by many transit users.
Moving to the Rapibus wasn’t entirely negative; according to Carpentier it allowed the STO to respect its schedules better and has allowed for a synchronisation of its timetables.
“It’s time to review results and to identify measures to optimize the network,” said Carpentier. “An outside firm will analyze the network, helping us set the next steps – all for fall, 2015.”
The STO will now focus on reversing the trend of declining ridership. According to Carpentier, ridership numbers are the reliable way to know if the network meets residents’ needs. "The STO’s ridership has decreased over the past two years, but figures for September are encouraging. This is the first significant increase since June, 2012," added Mr. Carpentier. The STO has reported a 1.6% increase in ridership for its entire network for September, 2014, over September, 2013.
Sectors served by the Rapibus and those east of the Gatineau River, have increased their chip card validations by 2% during the morning commute, while in the previous year, the number of validations dropped by 4%.
According to the STO, rider frustration with the Rapibus isn’t the sole explanation for the past two years of declining ridership. Despite September’s rider increase, the STO has seen a 1.5% decrease for this year; in 2012, ridership decreased by 1.3%. West Quebec’s public transit decline is also due to the 25,000 civil service jobs cut by the Harper government. Advertising to promote the understanding and use of the entire transit system has also been cut.
Next up in improving the Rapibus system is extending it to Boulevard Lorrain, as announced in spring, 2012, by former Papineau MNA Norman MacMillan.