An increase in transit routes has resulted in an increase to ridership in Nelson and the greater West Kootenay region.
According to figures recently released by B.C. Transit ridership has increased across all three transit systems that West Kootenay Regional Transit services, including Nelson by 10 per cent, Kootenay Boundary (including Trail and Castlegar) by seven per cent, and Kootenay Lake West by eight per cent.
B.C. Transit communications manager Jonathon Dyck said ridership on the health connections for 2015/16 was 6,394 on the Kootenay Lake West route, an increase of 25 per cent.
“We are pleased to see an increase in ridership in the West Kootenay region,” due to the increased routes, Dyck said.
There have been a number of changes to the system that have supported the increase in ridership in the West Kootenay region, he added, including:
- West Kootenay system integration in July 2013
- Additional Saturday trip on route 20 (Slocan Valley). In addition, there was improved frequency and shorter wait time between trips.
In Nelson, route 10 (North Shore) implemented improved on-time performance measures, and a Balfour ferry connection on Saturday was made.
In Castlegar Saturday service was also instituted, with local service and regional connections between Selkirk College, Trail and Nelson. Saturday regional service from Trail to Castlegar was also brought in, with connections to Nelson.
With an increase in ridership comes an increase in revenue — up by 6.2 per cent — with revenue from fares going toward offsetting the costs of operating the system, Dyck said. Operating costs were up 4.4 per cent.
“If a region posts a surplus, the funding is used to support transit services in future years, and it is ongoing it will help support expansion,” he explained.
Transit won’t be resting on its laurels for the coming year, said Dyck. Planning has begun for the next three years with even stronger local and regional connections, he said.
Requested improvements include adding one weekday morning peak trip from Slocan to Nelson, as well as adding one more service day on the Nelson-to-Kaslo (route 76) schedule.
In addition, the regional service has asked for another Nelson-to-Nakusp round trip per week. The trip would be extending the Nakusp to Silverton route to Slocan, which would then connect with the bus that travels from Slocan to Nelson.
Two years from now the request is to add one afternoon peak trip between Nelson and Castlegar on route 99.
Closer to home
The ridership numbers could rise even further.
This year a new city-backed marketing plan was created with the aim of putting more people in seats. The West Kootenay Transit Long Term Marketing Plan contained five new initiatives, including a weekly two-for-one Tuesday promotion, to educate non-riders about the benefits of transit.
The plan stems from the West Kootenay Regional Transit committee in an effort at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the region through transit usage.
Under this plan B.C. Transit will implement new marketing strategies to change perceptions and behaviours, attract new customers and increase ridership by promoting transit as part of a healthy, socially responsible lifestyle.
The plan also includes a customer rewards program to reward regular transit users. Recreation centres in the region will offer a one-time free admission to the transit users who present an expired monthly transit pass.
A Saints Ride the Bus promotion would use Selkirk Saints hockey players and social media to show the Saints riding the bus throughout the region.
There would also be a Seniors Ride the Bus day included on, October 1, National Seniors Day — with free transit for those 65 and older. BC Transit is celebrating the day with a Senior's Fair Friday, September 30 and free rides to seniors Saturday, October 1.
Earth Day would also feature a transit touch, partnering with local groups to promote Earth Day/Week and invite local elected officials and business champions to ride the bus. The intent is that riders will take the bus not just on this one day but throughout the year.
There were no direct costs or budget impacts to the City of Nelson with respect to the plan. B.C. Transit has budgeted $6,600 to the plan.
Nelson city councilor Val Warmington, the city’s representative on the WKRT board, said since the changes to routing and timing to create a more seamless regional service were instituted several years ago ridership in Nelson has increased.
She noted that streamlined regional service has been successful, “indicated by increased ridership on almost all routes throughout the region, though there are a few performing less than anticipated.”
Last year Nelson CARES Society’s Moving Together project focused on transportation solutions for seniors living in the rural areas of the West Kootenay, including the Slocan Valley and North Kootenay Lake areas.
The society created a storefront office on Vernon Street with information about public transit, Kootenay Rideshare and volunteer driving programs.
Rock slope stabilization still underway on Highway 31
A project is still underway to stabilize a rock slope on Highway 31 north of Kaslo, in the vicinity of Lost Ledge Provincial Park.
The site has occasional rock fall activity, with loose rock and debris being deposited onto Highway 31. The slope needed to be stabilized to reduce the risk of falling rock impacting the highway and minimize delays to the people driving on the road.
Over 2,000 square metres of slope will be scaled to remove loose rock and debris. In addition, over 800 metres of rock bolts will also be installed to secure the rock to the cliff face.
A $380,000 contract was awarded to Ned's Creek Blasting. Work is expected to be completed later this month.
People need to plan extra travel time as delays should be expected during this project. Motorists should check DriveBC for updates.