By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
The hammer is cocked and the gun barrel is leveled at BC Transit as the mayor of Nelson is smoking mad over rising transit costs the City has had to absorb, and he isn’t prepared to suffer them anymore.
Mayor John Dooley has given the provincial transportation company until the end of May to come up with a plan to tackle the $120,000 deficit the service has been saddled with.
He fingered BC Transit as the culprit in the service increase and felt they should find a way to streamline the system, through a reduction in routes and periods of service.
The minimum solution he was willing to accept is the $120,000 deficit hitting the City will be eliminated.
“I’m telling you right now I’m not going to accept anything that is not going to show significant change in the system and a significant reduction in the subsidies we are putting towards it,” he said.
“We will take this into our own hands and let the chips fall where they may.”
City manager Kevin Cormack confirmed a BC Transit planner will be coming in April to conduct a review of the service and make recommendations. The final report, in conjunction with City staff, will be released in May.
The City had $120,000 in operating losses with their transit last year. People weren’t riding the buses in non-peak times, and the new buses the City received in 2010 cost more to service than was anticipated. Transit costs were up 47 per cent, said Cormack.
Debt servicing of the new buses, low ridership in some periods and increased fuel consumption meant there were “a lot of additional costs there that we did not count on when we accepted delivery of those new buses,” Mayor Dooley said.
Eight other mayors from around the province put in a deficit position by BC Transit have contacted Mayor Dooley, agreeing to stand with him and demand action on the issue.
The bottom line is raising fares will not cover the shortfall, said Mayor Dooley. Sunday routes and evenings are not working and need to be cut, he added, and there is a huge drop off in the summer when the majority of the users — high school students — aren’t using the bus.
There has to be a common sense approach to how the service is delivered, he said.
“We know from our own statistics, that every night from 6-11 p.m., we only move on average six people,” Mayor Dooley said. “That’s not logical. It’s not common sense. It’s not meeting our targets of sustainability. It’s definitely not reducing greenhouse gas emissions and clearly people are not going out, and if they are, they are not using transit.”
The $120,000 the City lost this year is not going away. It’s going to be higher next year unless something is done now, he said. The money had to be found elsewhere in the budget to pay for it this year, said Mayor Dooley.
“We would not allow those inefficiencies to happen anywhere else in our operation, why would we allow it to happen in transit?