Today’s Poll

New Bus Routes in Nelson by Fall?

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
April 13th, 2012

What if there was one bus that went back and forth between Rosemont and downtown? No, it wouldn’t wander through the rest of Nelson before returning downtown. It would take one Rosemont route up, and another route through Rosemont back.

And another that ran between Fairview and downtown? And a third one just for Uphill? 

Residents can look at and comment on maps of those proposed new routes  at public meetings on April 26 and 27 (time and location to be announced) organized by B.C. Transit and Nelson City Council.

If the routes described above make sense, we can partially thank a citizen’s group, the Nelson Transit Community Group, for that. In 2011, B.C. Transit came to down, met with City Council, and then came up with a new route system that had some big problems, according to the Community Group’s Barry Nelson.

Within five blocks of every home

“Their initial proposal for Uphill was to have a route that went up Stanley Street and straight back down Stanley Street,” says Nelson. “For Rosemont it was going to be right up Silver King to Selkirk and straight back down again. In Fairview they had two routes going up one street and down the same street. That did not make sense to us. Our committee has a policy that there should be service to everyone within five blocks of their home.” 

The new B.C. Transit proposal, to be presented to the public on April 26 and 27, has incorporated the Nelson Transit  Community Group’s ideas. “They have listened and made adjustments,” says Nelson.

B.C. Transit is the provincial government body that funds 47% of the cost of transit in B.C. It coordinates transit systems and provides transit expertise to local governments. 

New routes by the fall… tentatively

At the upcoming public meetings, in addition to showing us their route maps, representatives of B.C. Transit will provide information on various ways municipalities can increase transit ridership, and they will take suggestions on that from the public. They will take public feedback on the route changes and report back to Nelson City Council by June with final recommendations. 

It is possible that we could have new bus routes in Nelson by the fall, according to City Manager Kevin Cormack. But he sounds a bit tentative when he says that, because there is another local transit process happening at the same time, somewhat related to the one described above.

Three transit systems

In addition to Nelson’s transit system, there are two others in the West Kootenay. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) and the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) run the other two. As soon as you take a bus from Nelson to Balfour or Slocan, for example, you are crossing over into the RDCK transit system.

Separate worlds

These three transit systems exist in separate worlds. There is no coordination between them, in terms of rider schedules, operator schedules, or fares.

Why don’t they get together and have one big, integrated, convenient, rider-friendly transit system? Well, B.C. Transit is encouraging them to think about it. 

A decision to work together?

At a meeting of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments coming up on April 19 in Trail, B.C. Transit will recommend that they amalgamate the three systems. If the answer is yes, B.C. Transit will then recommend a local governance structure to run it. Then a complex process of integrating the systems would start.

Although this sounds like a process that could take a while, Cormack says there is some urgency, “because in both regional districts, their operating agreements (contracts with the private companies that run their buses) are expiring at the end of this year.” 

Ideally, the end result could be one seamless bus system for the West Kootenay and Boundary areas. “From a rider’s point of view,” says Cormack, “you would be just taking transit. Scheduling and fares would be as if it was one transit system.”

This article was amended on April 27, 2012, to correct the name of the Nelson Transit Community Group.

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