Nelson city councillors probably didn’t realize the bumpy ride they were in for when they voted in June to suspend Sunday bus service and adjust other routes.
It was all in the name of fiscal prudence: the city’s transit contribution faced a $128,000 deficit due to decreasing revenues, higher fuel and wage costs, and debt servicing on a new bus fleet.
Council at first responded by increasing parking meter rates and transit fares, but the moves fell short of making up the difference.
So as of August, no more Sunday buses and no more service to Perrier Road.
Council didn’t seek feedback first.
“Consultation will only result in people who want to use it a lot storming here or writing letters,” councillor Margaret Stacey predicted.
That was pretty much the reaction anyway. Transit users packed council chambers and held rallies to protest the changes, which also included reduced summer service and eliminating service to Waldorf School.
Council insisted, however, that many of the adjustments would actually benefit the system.
“With some pretty minor changes we’ve been able to eliminate a bus from our fleet, which is a huge savings,” said councillor Donna Macdonald. “It’s really a matter of tweaking a couple of schedules in the late afternoon and not doing the Perrier Road run because it’s just not really being used.”
By the fall, however, council changed its tune a bit, with Macdonald saying she regretted axing the Sunday bus, and hoped there might be a creative way to restore the service.
A Nelson transit users group, meanwhile, is asking for round table discussions before the 2012 budget is set.
Cuts weren’t the only thing the local transit system experienced this year: service was actually improved on several regional district routes.
A bigger bus and an extra run were added to the Nelson to Castlegar route, while thrice daily service to Blewett began, along with an evening run from Nelson to the North Shore.