Wednesday, October 16, 2013

By Jessica Peters - Agassiz Observer

Two sleek, new buses were rolled out on Wednesday morning that will serve the Agassiz-Harrison route.

The vicinity buses can carry almost double the riders as the current HandyDarts that are used on the route (#11). Chris Brown, branch manager at First Canada, said the new style of bus is only six inches longer than the HandyDart, carrying 23 seated passengers and 16 standing.

It's a huge leap in service for those who ride the bus. There have been times when the current bus has been so crowded, young riders have been left behind at bus stops.

"The Agassiz bus has been a victim of its own success," Brown told a large crowd that gathered for the unveiling at the FVRD office in Chilliwack. "It's been so popular, there were sometimes too many passengers."

There are other benefits to the new buses. The vicinity bus is still wheelchair accessible. But rather than open at the back — a process that could take up to six minutes — the bus simply kneels down at the front to allow smooth passage for all travelers.

That shortens the process from six minutes to under a minute, Brown said.

"These are wonderful buses," enthused District of Kent Mayor John Van Laerhoven. When these hit the road in early November, he suggested that ridership would rise even further.

The Agassiz Harrison bus is one route that has seen constant growth over recent years and BC Transit has called it one of the most successful small systems in the province. The service was increased in 2010, and ridership increased along with it.

Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio was also at the unveiling, where he likened the buses to the shorter styles seen in London.

The service is especially important for those who cannot afford to own a vehicle, he added, including seniors and students.

There are 15 Vicinity buses operating in 6 BC Transit communities.