Fraser Valley Regional District is now looking to launch an improved, extended, express bus service between Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley starting in January 2022.
The regional district and the municipal governments of Abbotsford and Chilliwack previously approved an extended BC Transit route of the No. 66, known as the Fraser Valley Express (FVX), reaching Metro Vancouver in early 2021. But due to COVID-19, BC Transit made a decision in April to defer all planned expansion initiatives until the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
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Currently, the FVX runs between Chilliwack’s Downtown Exchange to Langley’s Carvolth Exchange along Highway 1, making just four stops along the way. It makes 17 trips each direction per weekday from early morning to evening, and eight trips each direction per weekday from mid-morning to mid-evening.
Each one way trip on the FVX takes about one hour and 10 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
An extension beginning next year would bring the western terminus of the express bus route to SkyTrain’s Lougheed Town Centre Station, allowing interregional passengers to better connect with the broad network of TransLink services.
First launched in 2015, the FVX has grown into becoming an immensely successful bus service in terms of fare revenues exceeding operating costs, resulting in a 2019 surplus of $757,000.
Its last major service expansion was in September 2018, which doubled service on weekends and holidays, resulting in a 92% ridership increase on those days. Over the course of 2018, the service had an average of 19,300 boardings per month — equivalent to an average of 232,000 riders annually.
Fares are currently $5.00 for each single trip, $45.00 for a book of 10 fares, $100.00 for an adult monthly pass, and $85.00 for a student monthly pass (up to Grade 12) or senior monthly pass.
Ridership and fare revenue statistics suggests there is immense underlying latent demand for improved interregional transit services that would support an improved and extended FVX.
The upcoming FVX expansion was previously included in the regional district’s five-year financial plan beginning in 2020 and budgeted accordingly. The extension to Lougheed Town Centre Station will increase annual operating costs by $494,000.
Under BC Transit’s funding formula, the provincial government funds 47% of conventional transit bus systems and local governments fund the remaining 53%. Revenue collected from the local bus system is used to reduce the local property tax share of the costs.
Earlier this fall, the federal and provincial governments jointly allocated more than $1 billion to public transit systems in BC to cover COVID-19 revenue losses to date, forecasted losses through the end of 2021, and to support near-normal service frequencies to allow for some onboard physical distancing. BC Transit received $86 million, while TransLink received $644 million and BC Ferries received $308 million.
In exchange for the emergency operating funding, all three public transit systems are also required to cap annual fare increases through 2024.