New buses will be on Nelson streets in the spring, but residents shouldn’t expect more extra large BC Transit buses.
Vicinity buses which hold half the number of riders as the Nova buses — which now make the majority of runs in Nelson — will be arriving in town in April.
“It’s clearly been an irritant for many of us in the community to see these oversized buses driving around all day and yet, we knew we needed them for the rush hour times and the school times,” said Nelson city councillor and West Kootenay Transit Committee member Donna Macdonald. “It’s really an outcome of this integration we are doing through the [committee] that we are able to do some trading to be more efficient.”
The Nova buses — which hold up to 70 people — will be moved to shuttle riders along major corridors such as to Trail and into the Slocan Valley.
During the day, the Vicinity buses will move passengers throughout the community with increased efficiency.
BC Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said the Vicinity was designed by Grand West at a time when BC Transit was looking for a mid-sized bus to operate in Victoria.
The Vicinities have been on Nelson streets before during a trial period after they were designed in 2008.
“One of the communities that really liked Vicinity, as part of its testing and tour, was Nelson,” said Burton. “The reason we like the bus is because it is slightly larger than a para-transit or a HandyDART and yet it can accommodate a lot more people.”
The main floor of the Vicinity has 10 seats that can all flip up to accommodate a mom with a stroller or if people board the bus using wheelchairs or walkers. It accommodates two large wheelchairs.
“I think part of the attraction from the City’s point of view was that this bus is more affordable, but it can also service areas that wouldn’t necessarily accommodate a large bus,” said Burton. “I think they were really keen to see it be more of a connector within the community.”
Unlike HandyDARTs, which cost $186,000 with a five-year guarantee, the Vicinity — though more expensive at $253,000 — comes with a 10-year guarantee.
“It’s about a third of the cost of a conventional bus in terms of fueling,” said Burton. “It’s a significantly different fuel cost, comparable to what you would get on a community shuttle but far better.”
Macdonald added another reason Nelson is a good fit for the Vicinities is its garage and mechanics.
“We have a fantastic garage and mechanics there. While there will be some training required, we have great people to work on these buses and do the maintenance required,” she said.