The City of Nelson wants the province to double its rural transit budget, and a local community group has offered to help in the lobbying effort.
The city has prepared a resolution for the Union of BC Municipalities conference in September, asking the province for this funding increase.
The Nelson and Area Action Group for Better Public Transportation made a presentation to Nelson City Council at its July 25 meeting, offering to help the city with a social media campaign that would drum up public support for increased transit funding.
Group members Keith Wiley and Dave Gregory said their organization wants the province to provide daily bus service between Nelson and both Vancouver and Calgary.
The group also wants a bus from Nelson to the Trail hospital (not just to the city) without the current inconvenient connections in Castlegar. Bus systems between cities and within cities need to be better integrated, they said.
And the group wants Sunday and holiday bus service in Nelson.
Wiley said his group realized some of these things are not in the city’s jurisdiction, “so we are delighted that you are taking this forward as champions to the province and ultimately the federal government.”
He said urban and rural planning does not tend to prioritize transit.
“It is assumed that it is about more cars, more freeways, and more jet airplanes.”
Wiley and Gregory pointed out that the province, as part of its Clean Transportation Action Plan, aims for a 25 per cent drop in vehicular traffic across the province by 2030.
“But very little is being done on that target. Transit is what needs to be done,” Wiley said.
Transit in B.C. is funded half by BC Transit and half by the municipalities in which the bus service operates.
If the province doubles its funding, as the city’s resolution to the UBCM requests, this might be affordable for the province but not for individual municipalities, Councillor Rik Logtenberg said.
He is the chair of the West Kootenay Transit Committee, which includes representatives of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the Kootenay Boundary Regional District, the City of Nelson and B.C Transit.
“The requested doubling provincial funding of transit (would mean) changing the funding model,” Logtenberg said.
He said increased funding of transit is necessary to kickstart what he calls a “virtuous cycle.” Once the investment in a system reaches a certain critical level, the system becomes more viable so more people use it and support it, thereby encouraging yet more investment.
“The question is, are they (the province) willing to make that upfront investment to invigorate the system,” Logtenberg said.