BC Transit is seeking your input to improve the local bus system, Anne DeGrace writes. File photo

COLUMN: Getting on the bus, figuratively and literally

Anne DeGrace on efforts to improve transit in Nelson

“The age of mass transportation arrived in Nelson in December, 1899,” writes Art Joyce in his book Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses: a History of Public Transit it Nelson. Although Nelson was able to boast of being the smallest city in North America to have such an innovation at the time, Nelson’s new streetcar was “constantly plagued by political interference, mechanical breakdowns, and minor derailments, a classic example of Hanging Fire,” writes Joyce, explaining that “to hang fire” meant “something held off or failing to materialize.”

Like that bus you were waiting for.

There’s a movement afoot (pardon the pun) to improve the public’s experience when it comes to transit in our area. BC Transit, in collaboration with the City of Nelson and Regional District of Central Kootenay, is developing a plan for the Kootenay Lake West, Castlegar, and Nelson areas that will outline improvements for transit service and infrastructure over the coming years.

To that end, BC Transit is seeking input from the public. Locally, folks are invited to offer feedback on ridership needs in the West Kootenay Transit System in a session at the Nelson Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 28 from 12 to 3 p.m., in the library’s lower level. Find out more at bctransit.com/west-kootenay/transit-future.

In this era of good green intentions, public transit that really works for folks just makes sense. So this survey of rural users is important if we want to get out of our cars and into something not only convenient, but also companionable. Some of my best conversations have happened on buses (an excellent reason to keep your phone in your pocket and your smile on your face).

As Art’s book chronicles, Nelson itself has a long history of transit service. The last streetcar ran downtown in 1949; our beautifully restored Streetcar 23 runs the waterfront, as green and clean as if it knew then what the future might hold. And while a return to Baker Street is not in the cards, the fact that we are rethinking our transportation choices is a fine thing indeed.

Regional bus services began about the time the rails went quiet in downtown Nelson. By 2013, connector routes meant folks could get to Castlegar, Trail, Nakusp, and other points. Riders could enjoy conviviality en route, and then again over tea with Aunt Mabel the next town over. Thank you, BC Transit.

But could things be better? Sure, they could. Which is why you’re being asked to weigh in. I hope you’ll stop by, ask questions, and offer your best suggestions.

The Nelson Public Library is all about connections, transit or otherwise. Last month the West Kootenay EcoSociety set up an info-station in the library to let seniors know about a free weatherization project aimed at making homes more energy efficient. If you missed it, you can still go to https://www.ecosociety.ca/campaign/seniors-weatherization to find out more and register (the program runs until December).

Next month Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign comes to our lounge area. Drop in Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to write letters and help release people around the world who have been imprisoned for expressing opinions, stop the use of torture, and end other human rights abuses. Every year 10 global cases are chosen for the campaign. This year, Amnesty International is highlighting a case right here in Canada, championing youth from Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows First Nation) who are fighting for justice in the face of 50 years of mercury poisoning in their community.

Said Beat writer Ken Kesey: “You’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.”

Let’s all get on the bus.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses by Art Joyce is available on the Library shelves at 388.407 and at Otter Books.

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