Changes to the city’s transit system are on the way and for the busiest route in Barrie it should bring much-needed relief for riders.
Starting on Sunday, Aug. 25, the city’s express route will be getting a boost of four buses, up from the current one. Wait times will drop to 22 minutes instead of the regular 30.
Brent Forsyth, the City of Barrie's transit director, tells BarrieToday that about a year ago there was a spike in ridership, particularly the northeast part of the city, and the changes being made should help accommodate those extra people.
“In some cases, we were seeing buses at capacity and actually turning some riders away,” Forsyth said. “We then took the steps to find out exactly how much was needed.”
In September 2018, Barrie Transit launched its first express route, which connected downtown to Blake Street, Johnson Street, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre and Georgian College.
The route quickly became the most used route in terms of boardings per hour.
It all has to do with intensification in that part of Barrie, Forsyth says.
“Where the Route 100 service is, that makes up approximately 60 per cent of the city’s total ridership,” he said. “Transit is very supportive to intensification and when you look at a map of the city, you can see the northeast area has that, especially with stops that see many boarding and getting off.
"The hospital, the college and over to Bayfield Street are all high destination points and, of course, taking you to and from the downtown terminal just adds to that," Forsyth added.
The updated routes were designed using ridership and real-time tracking data collected through automated passenger counters aboard city buses.
“It actually tracks individuals boarding and getting off our buses at each stop throughout the city,” said Forsyth. “We’re able to track times of day, specific stops and routes where the travel is happening, so it allows us to see the clear patterns all the time in order to make adjustments.”
There will also be a small change in the southeast part of the city with Routes 3 and 4, which Forsyth says may not seem huge, but will cut down some wait times.
“There is this very inefficient loop that adds 10 minutes to a rider's travel time each way, so we’re going to remove the loop, optimizing those routes and save some time for those who have been waiting longer than needed,” he said.
With Barrie’s population boom coming and possibly even doubling by 2041, Forsyth says a new transportation master plan is part of a bigger picture to help be ready for newcomers to town.
"It outlines a high-level plan on how we’re going to grow the transit service between now and 2041," he said. "We basically have that document to help us plan for the future.
"This Route 100 plan is in line with how we’re going to grow with that plan and how we can grow the connections along the way," Forsyth added.
The new routes that hit the road on Aug. 25 can be seen by heading to the city's transit website.