Monday, August 30, 2010

By Allan Wishart - Prince George Free Press

No, the bus didn't shrink.

Bus riders on the 91 (Spruceland/Hart) and 46 and 47 (Queensway) routes might get a bit of a shock when a smaller version of their transit shows up in the next couple of weeks, but it's okay. It's part of a two-week trial period for the Vicinity bus, which is 27.5 feet compared to the regular 40-foot buses the city has been using.

"Those routes have shown lower ridership," says city transit analyst Daniel Pearce, "so the smaller bus will be all right. As well, the 91 route has good terrain to test it on. It has some tighter streets that the larger buses have trouble with at times."

The Vicinity bus will run on the same schedule as the regular buses, and Pearce isn't sure when it will be running each of the different routes.

The Vicinity bus was introduced to Prince George on Friday morning outside the Civic Centre. Manuel Achadinha, the president and CEO of BC Transit, said the bus has a lot to offer municipalities.

"It's half the price of a larger (40-foot) bus and is 33 per cent more fuel-efficient. One of the best things I can say about the bus is Quesnel didn't want to give it up after their test.

"I thought we were going to have to fight them to get the keys back."

The Vicinity bus has made runs in a number of communities across B.C. to see how it performs in different climates and terrains.

"The feedback we're been getting from drivers and passengers," Achadinha said, "is that the bus is more manouevrable, comfortable and quiet."

Mayor Dan Rogers said upgrading the local transit system whenever possible was important.

"We're not looking at a bus; we're looking at innovation. Mobility is crucial to a high quality of life for our citizens. "This bus promises to provide that mobility." Minister of Transportation Shirley Bond said the bus was proving itself around the province.

"The feedback so far has been good from both drivers and passengers. This isn't just about Prince George. People in rural areas want transit service, and the Vicinity bus can provide that."