Transit ridership booms in 2023, but cost efficiency still ‘slightly lower than optimal’: report

Herald file photo

The number of Prince Albert residents taking the bus hit new highs in seven of the 12 months last year, according to the City’s 2023 Transit Review.

The numbers were included in the agenda package for Monday’s executive committee meeting. They show a record number of riders in January 2023 with 42,0202, a total that was exceeded six more times before the end of the year.

October had the highest number of riders out of any month with 59,129. The previous record of 41,702 was set in October 2018.

Despite the increase, the City of Prince Albert narrowly missed its goal of exceeding the national cost efficiency average.

The average Cost to Revenue Ratio, based on transit statistics from agencies across Canada, is 33 per cent for communities with less than 150,000 people. In 2023, the City of Prince Albert hit a ratio of 32 per cent. The ratio was 28 per cent in 2022.

Prince Albert’s transit system cost roughly $2.2 million in 2023, an increase from roughly $1.5 million in 2022. However, revenue also increased from $444,401 in 2022 to $699,270 in 2023.

Total ridership jumped from 257,494 in 2022 to 522,492 in 2023. The total cost per passenger dropped from $6.14 in 2022 to $4.25 in 2023.

“The Cost to Revenue Ratio remains slightly lower than optimal due to additional lease fees for the existing transit fleet, and the loss of the yearly transit advertising contract,” wrote the report’s author, Transportation and Traffic Manager Evan Hastings. “Despite these setbacks, the massive influx in ridership has led to a four per cent Cost to Revenue Ratio increase from past years.”

Post-secondary and high school students were one of the biggest reasons for the increase in riders. In October 2022, only 380 students had monthly student passes. By October 2023, that number had nearly doubled to 755.

The City’s online bus tracking website,, was also a factor. The website recorded 331,940 unique visits in 2023, compared to 87,687 the year before—an increase of 278 per cent.

“Although major strides were made in 2023, there is still plenty of room for the PA transit system to grow in 2024,” Hastings wrote. “High School and Post-Secondary students now account for over 700 monthly transit passes. These students represent a changing culture for bus transit within the City.

“As the extended transit service hours and enhanced service reliability continue into 2024, ridership and revenue are both anticipated to see further increases resulting in a more efficient transit service.”

Hastings added that a full transit system review is in the works. Administrators are also working on a Transit Fare Review to study prices.

Hastings will give a presentation on the 2023 Transit Review at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

@kerr_jas •