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Report forthcoming on changing the process for regional transit decisions

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 26th, 2022

How decisions are made regarding regional transit services are expected to change after a report examining the service’s governance was commissioned by the regional district.

It was found that the current governance structure for transit services within the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) — which also included Nelson, BC Transit and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary —  did not allow elected officials to understand the impact of “proposed service level changes on the local employment opportunities and the employment commute.”

RDCK research analyst Tom Dool said there were many inconsistencies that need to be addressed in a report on the service.

“While regional district, BC Transit and operating company staff receive and respond to all public inquiries there is currently no venue suitable for addressing route specific levels brought forward by the ridership with elected officials,” he wrote in his report to the board of directors at their Feb. 17 regular meeting.

During that meeting the board directed regional district staff to investigate “how local service levels may be prioritized, timely discussions of the criteria-based apportionment of transit costs, and oversight for local government transit assets and the development of capital plans.”

The report would also outline governance options for services funding West Kootenay Transit — in Castlegar and area, North Shore, Slocan Valley and Kootenay Lake West — for application of the West Kootenay Transit Future Service Plan and a breakdown of the costs associated with the options for service.

The discrepancy arose in September, 2021, when the regional district board adopted the West Kootenay Transit Future Service Plan that included 39 transit service related options and 11 infrastructure proposals, with a decision on the order of implementation lying with the regional district board.

“However, the current means of prioritizing, costing and implementing available service options will not serve the board in an efficient fashion and could potentially result in inability to achieve many of the options outlined in the plan,” Dool explained.

The West Kootenay Transit Committee (WKTC) is a forum for discussion between the three transit service participants and BC Transit, with a focus on system-wide considerations, he added, and did not allow for decisions on service level options, changes to local transit funding services, or new services by individual participants.

“These decisions should be considered by the service participants requesting them and, if supported, brought to the board for approval, and then brought forward to the West Kootenay Committee to determine the effects on the West Kootenay Transit Service as a whole,” Dool explained.

“The decisions required of elected officials to enact any of the options proposed in the TFSP must be made in conjunction with annual operating agreements, budgetary processes, capital purchase programs, and mid-range planning processes at BC Transit.

“The current process of ad-hoc meetings does not allow for the affected service participants to meet and engage in the subject material in a timely or comprehensive fashion.”

He pointed to an open letter to the board of directors from Nelson Mayor John Dooley citing that the city — a significant contributor to the service — largely felt uninformed and unengaged in the governance of the service.

“While the questions posed by the mayor are all entirely valid, it should be noted they were largely addressed in the board report accompanying the Bylaw,” Dool said. “While West Kootenay Transit Committee does not afford the affected a decision-making opportunity the general open board meeting does not afford the effected time or resources to engage in the subject matter adequately.”

Dool suggested allowing the members of West Kootenay Transit the opportunity to meet regularly to filter out what service options and projects relating to infrastructure the regional district staff should pursue.

“This opportunity would afford staff the space to address participant specific concerns regarding costing, apportionment, service levels, and infrastructure in a more comprehensive fashion than is currently available during the general open meetings of the board,” he wrote in his report.

The transit committee

The West Kootenay Transit Committee (WKTC) was established under the Local Government Act section 176 and 795 to provide advice and assist BC Transit, the RDCK and RDKB boards of directors and council for the City of Nelson regarding transit service changes, fares, improvements, marketing, ridership, efficiencies, long term funding and governance.

The WKTC provides an opportunity for the three local government service participants and BC Transit to discuss and make recommendation regarding initiatives that impact the operation of the entire system.

“Specific service level changes, apportionment, infrastructure developments that exclusively impact regional district participants are outside of the scope of this committee,” noted an RDCK staff report.

While the WKTC does consider the overall impact of a service level change on system as a whole, the committee does not make recommendations to the board regarding the type of local service level changes proposed in the TFSP.

Source: RDCK addenda, Feb. 17

Categories: General


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