Today’s Poll

Doing the math: call made for reworking funding formula for funding local transit

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
August 5th, 2023

The funding formula for transit needs to change in order for public transportation to prosper, says the chair of the West Kootenay Transit committee.

Rik Logtenberg, also a Nelson city councillor, spoke at a July 25 City of Nelson council meeting about the need for more Provincial money to provide solid and seamless regional and inter-provincial bus transportation.

Currently, the model for funding is an even split —  between B.C. Transit and member municipalities — with each partner contributing half of the total budget.

However, for the service to flourish, said Logtenberg, the funding model needs to be unequal.

“(I)n some ways, the request to double initial funding for transit is really about changing the model,” he said, adding that if the province paid twice what it does now, but the municipality’s share stayed the same, that was a formula that would work.

“I think that what we can communicate to our provincial partners and counterparts is that we believe that further investment in our regional transit system will pay off, will get to a place where we get into virtuous cycles,” Logtenberg said.

The City of Nelson has sent a resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) fall convention calling for the increase in Provincial funding for transit, and it is one that could get some traction, and action.

“Once you get to a certain critical amount of investment, then it becomes a much more viable system, therefore more people ride it and … that system will continue to grow,” said Logtenberg. “Are we willing to give it the upfront money to do so?”

The Nelson and Area Action Group for Better Public Transportation appeared before City council on July 25 at the committee-of-the-whole meeting, voicing support of the City’s resolution and offering to lobby on their behalf through social media to garner more public support.

“What we need to see is a more coordinated campaign. It needs more than just our transit group,” said Keith Wiley, one of the group’s spokespeople. “If we all put in a criticism of the funding formula and a request for more money, maybe, just maybe, somebody at a high enough level in B.C. Transit will actually hear it.”

The objective of the group was to encourage local governments to “place a high priority on reducing transportation climate emissions by dramatically increasing public transit services,” the group’s website explained (https://nelsonpublictransitaction.ca/).

“Going forward, we would like to work with you on lobbying to make sure the UBCM motion passes and is brought to the attention of government, and seizes their attention,” said Wiley.

Stating the need

Wiley said there were a lot of people in B.C., particularly in rural B.C., who could not get around very well and needed better transit, as well as inter-provincial transit.

“There are a large number of people, whether for physical or general reasons, or financial, can’t drive,” he said.

The group had five points it wished to target, said Wiley, starting with the electrification of all buses.

“Over half of the buses being built now in the world are electric; we want them,” he said.

Another major concern is the lack of reliable transportation for health services, Wiley explained.

“It’s an old saw but the people really need a direct bus from Nelson to the Trail hospital that doesn’t have two stops, two transfers and sometimes missed connections,” he said. “For older people who are maybe not well, it just doesn’t work.”

The third is to consider an on-demand bus in Nelson, like the Handi-dart one, but with expanded service. Wiley said the fourth one was the creation of Sunday transit service.

The fifth point would be to urge the city to put pressure on the provincial government for the establishment of a province-wide public bus network.

“An affordable, public inter-city coach that can get us around our province is a vital public service and since Greyhound pulled out its low quality bus service in 2018, many people have few options to travel to see family and friends,” Wiley said.

Join the Action

The Action Group is looking to add more voices in support of a joint submission to Clean B.C. that contains:

• a boost in funding for better public transit services for “the rest of” B.C.;

“Great transit has been developing in the Lower Mainland, but rural citizens have far less access to services. For many buses are unavailable or very infrequent and sometimes unreliable and so few use them,” said Wiley

• build an entire province-wide travel coach service;

“A quality, affordable service. This link completes the circuit and allows door-to-door transit services. Provide basic travel rights to thousands who cannot drive. Make it easier and cheaper to take the bus.”

• bring in electric buses and inter-city coaches as quickly as possible; and

“Phasing out diesel buses as they wear out is the best use of resources. Moving people from private vehicles to buses, even diesel, is a big emission saving,” Wiley explained.

• facilitate redevelopment of passenger and local freight train services;

• support a “new national dream” of a high speed rail corridor from Halifax to Vancouver.

Learn more and sign on to the submission at NelsonPublicTransitAction.ca.

Categories: General