By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Lower than expected fuel costs will likely bail out Durham’s transit department from an operating deficit this year.
Durham Regional Transit is facing a $1.15 million operating deficit, but when factoring in $1.35 million in cost savings due to lower than expected fuel prices, the final tally could see a $200,000 operating surplus.
A staff budget update, presented to the Transit Executive Committee Nov. 29, predicts maintenance costs for 2017 will be $650,000 over budget.
“Work orders on buses have increased 21 per cent compared with last year, given that the warranty period has ended for a number of buses, and the overall conventional fleet has increased by two buses in 2017,” the report states.
In addition, revenue levels from cash fares, passes and tickets are expected to be $550,000 under budgeted totals.
Revenue amounts available to the end of October indicate cash paying riders are down 12 per cent from 2016, and five per cent lower than expectations in the budget.
Pass and ticket sales revenue for all fare categories is trending lower than expected by approximately 11 per cent.
As well, costs for route maintenance services, including snow and ice removal, of DRT’s 2,700 bus stops and 500 shelters are pegged to be $250,000 over budget this year.
The report also states that at the end of October, DRT ridership this year is at 8.5 million, which is 140,00 riders, or 1.7 per cent, lower than predicted.
However, Durham Regional Transit general manager Vince Patterson noted ridership is actually up about one per cent over 2016, with increased ridership over the previous year for every month between May and October.
Patterson says DRT set lofty marks for ridership in this year’s budget as a way to set certain goals for the service.
“It seems like we are starting to turn the corner,” Patterson said.
Patterson told committee members the five-week college strike, which kept more than 12,000 Durham students out of class, had a negative impact on ridership in October and November.
However, with the college extending its fall semester, Patterson says he expects they will see students using DRT later into the month of December than usual.