BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha cuts the ribbon for the new Route 99 Kootenay Connector bus with West Kootenay Transit Committee member Donna Macdonald and regional transit manager Kevin Schubert.

New West Kootenay Transit System now in effect

The new, integrated West Kootenay Transit System officially launched today.

The new, integrated West Kootenay Transit System officially launched today and local politicians and transit officials were on hand to celebrate.

Gathering at the Nelson Transit Exchange on the corner of Ward and Baker streets the group awaited the arrival of the  “Route 99 Kootenay Connector” bus, which runs from downtown Nelson to Selkirk College in Castlegar, where it meets “Route 98 Columbia Connector” that continues to Trail. This new link between Nelson and Trail, available six times daily from Monday to Friday, is a highlight of the integrated system.

As the No. 99 pulled up to the curb, BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha and  West Kootenay Transit Committee member Donna Macdonald posed in front of the bus for a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

“This is an example of really unprecedented regional cooperation in the Kootenay-Boundary,” said Macdonald, a Nelson City Councillor.

West Kootenay Transit brings three local governments and nine transit systems together under a single banner and represents years of planning.

Three years ago BC Transit approached local governments with the idea of better tying together the services from Nelson to Trail to Nakusp. In June of last year, the West Kootenay Transit Committee held its inaugural meeting to start hammering out the details.

Since then, there have been numerous meetings and open houses.  Macdonald said the Nelson Transit Community, a vocal group of residents who long advocated for better regional transit, were key in providing the rider’s perspective during the planning stages.

“Like any birth, this [birth of a new transit system] is an exciting time,” Macdonald said. “We know there is a lot work ahead as we bring this system to maturity and improve the rider’s experience and increase usage of the new transit system — but today we’re not thinking about work, we’re thinking about celebrating our new regionally-integrated, rider-friendly service both within our community and between our community.”

After the ribbon was cut, the group piled onto the bus, along with other transit users who were enjoying a free bus rides for the day. A new fare structure comes into effect tomorrow. Single zone riders will now pay $2 (a 25 cent increase), while a multi-zone ride is $3.50. The Kootenay Zone, which encompasses Nelson, now stretches from Balfour and Playmor Junction, removing a previous fare boundary for riders coming into town from Six Mile.

Transit users can see all the updated route information in the new Rider’s Guide available at bctransit.com/regions/wkt.