Given the history and sprawling layout of our community, it is not surprising that driving still prevails as our main form of transportation. Other ways of getting around are important to our future, though, and we are making headway in increasing our use of bikes, buses and walking.
Ferry fares continue to increase at warp speed pace, well above the overall rate of inflation. For a family of four travelling in a car with two children (one between 5 and 11 years old and one over 11) in January 2010, the roundtrip ferry fare to Vancouver was $158.50. By April 2015, the fare for this family had risen to $209.98. That’s an increase of 32.5% in five years. The roundtrip fare between Powell River and Comox for the same family of four was $157.60 in January 2010. By April 2015, the fare had gone up to $203.44, an increase of 29% in five years. For the Texada Island route, the fare for the family was $50.60 in January 2010 and $65.19 in April 2015—also a 29% increase.
After much hard work by local groups, individuals and local government staff, Powell River now has bike lanes! In the Regional District, 4.3 km of bike lanes have been built since 2013 on Padgett Rd and Gillies Bay Rd. The City built 6.7 km of bike lanes on Duncan St and Manson Ave in 2015.
In 2012/13, total ridership was 183,355 on the scheduled City bus routes (Nos. 1, 2 and 3), 8,633 on the rural routes (Nos. 12, 13 and 14), and 9,596 on HandyDART and supplemental taxi. Ridership on conventional buses has increased by nearly 60% since 2004-5, although it has dropped slightly since a peak in 2011-12. Changes in ridership track very closely with increases and decreases in service hours, and anecdotally correspond to large changes in gas prices as seen in 2008. HandyDART ridership has increased by almost 65% since 2004-5, and BC Transit’s 2014 review reports that HandyDART demand exceeds capacity.
Getting to Work
In 2011, in the Powell River region, 84.8% of workers got to work by car (77.7 as driver and 7.1 as passenger), while 2.4% used public transit, 7.8% walked and 2% cycled. These numbers show increases in use of transit, bike and bus modes over 2006. While our transit usage is well below BC and Canada averages of 13.5% and 12.7% respectively, more of us walk (BC 7.4%, Canada 6.2%) and we’re catching up rapidly in the numbers who cycle (BC 2.3%, Canada 1.4%).
From the Survey …
Over the last four years, has it become easier in Powell River to get around without using a car or truck?
Wherever they live, responders are most likely to say that there’s been no change in needing a car and truck to get around. Those who saw some progress outnumbered those who thought matters were worse.
Compared to four years ago, do you think the ferries are serving Powell River at a price everyone can afford?
In the 2011 Vital Signs report, over 80% of survey responders felt that the ferry system would not meet their future needs. This year, over 97% of respondents said that the situation has gotten worse since then.
Trailriders Bring Everyone on Board
Powell River Mobility Opportunities Society (PRMOS) brings together volunteers and people with mobility challenges to enjoy hikes and other activities. They use “Trailriders”—one-wheel contraptions with a human carrier at front and back that conducts a mobility-challenged person safely into areas where wheelchairs and scooters cannot go, even in the snow! PRMOS has also brought up a paddleboard from Vancouver, which takes a wheelchair, for a visit to Powell Lake.