New West residents will be able to ride the DUC until Labour Day – thanks to the City of New Westminster.
The city has agreed to provide a $12,000 sponsorship contribution – subject to confirmation from its solicitor – to help keep the Downtown Uptown Connector (DUC) shuttle service running until Labour Day.
After Labour Day, the city will also provide an additional $8,000 for the ongoing operation of the shuttle service until May 2017, provided that River Market secures contributions to make up the additional money needed.
Mayor Jonathan Cote believes New Westminster is very well serviced with transit, but the shuttle attempts to augment regular bus service.
“I know this was something that was contemplated in the master transportation plan, and I think the city should play a role in trying to partner to see if this can work,” he said. “There is a part of me that thinks it’s a little bit of a duplication of service. We have the 106 and the 123 that run up and down Sixth Street and Eighth Street on very high frequency.”
Cote said the free shuttle service seems to be particularly appreciated by people trying to get to River Market and Century House. While he supports having the city invest in the pilot project, Cote hopes more community sponsorship can be brought on board to help it become a more sustainable long-term piece of the transportation system.
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr said the uptown and downtown business improvement areas receive an annual levy from property owners in those areas and should be contributing funds to the program.
“This is a real big advantage to the uptown and the downtown, and both of those areas have business improvement areas,” he said. “I am puzzled that they aren’t forthcoming with revenues to assist that.”
Coun. Patrick Johnstone said it’s possible the shuttle won’t work in the long term, but he thinks the city needs to at least try to keep it running.
“The pilot is coming towards and end. I think it is starting to show some success. I support this. I think the city should try and do it,” he said. “I would feel bad if this pilot couldn’t continue just as it was starting to show success.”
Launched in October 2015, the DUC pilot program aims to provide free rides to 100 citizens daily, reduce reliance on private automobiles and associated parking requirements, provide alternatives for customers to reach Quayside and waterfront destinations during the Front Street closure, parkade deconstruction and construction of the RiverSky development on Quayside Drive.
Salim Hassan, marketing manager at River Market, said the shuttle has surpassed 200 riders per week and numbers are increasing each week.
Did you know?
* DUC operates Thursday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
* The service costs about $5,000 a month or $60,000 a years to operate.
* The DUC loop includes six stops: Donald’s Market (River Market); Columbia and McKenzie streets (652 Columbia St.); city hall (on Sixth Street, between Royal and Queens avenues); Century House (620 Eighth St.), Quayside at Murano Lofts (10 Renaissance Sq.); and Quaywest Condos (31 Reliance Court -driveway).
* About 70 per cent of riders use the DUD to go uptown.
* A survey found that 66 per cent of rider are over the age of 50.
* The most popular stops are Sixth and Sixth, Century House and River Market.