Money has been set aside for expanded transit service on the North Shore and through Blewett, if the logistics can be worked out.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay agreed Thursday to include $6,000 in its budget to expand the Slocan Valley to Nelson run to include Blewett, and $12,000 to provide a 10:15 p.m. run to the North Shore.
“If we can find a cost-effective bus service, the program can be put in place this year,” says director Ramona Faust, who introduced the motion. “If it sounds good and makes sense, the money is there to go ahead.”
She says residents of her area have been paying $20,000 to $30,000 for the Slocan Valley bus run since it was created, but don’t get much for their money, and were likely to ask for their money back.
“That was reawakened in them at the public budget presentation,” Faust says. “They’re not very happy.”
Although the bus does pass below Blewett on the highway, “the community is quite elevated. There is a car park at one of the entrances, but Blewett is much more extensive.”
While it’s possible to call ahead and request the bus to use Granite Road, Faust is proposing a regular service.
“This would be a scheduled run. Our hope is it would be in the morning so people could get to school and in the evening so people can get home.”
She says it would reduce traffic in and out of Nelson and allow low-income people to work in the city.
Although a committee has been working with BC Transit on bringing a regular bus to Blewett, they were disappointed a recently adopted transit plan pegged it as four years away.
The added North Shore route, meanwhile, would accommodate workers with later shifts, as well as people who want to take in events in Nelson.
Now that the money is in place, Faust says they will “wait-and-see what hours are available to us, and if a bus can be put into service that is cost effective and appropriate for the number who will ride it.”
The added run would be a continuation of the City of Nelson’s existing service, but the board heard the city could decline to provide it.
Although the city doesn’t have to put up any funding, mayor John Dooley was concerned how it would fit into their transit schedule, and voted against the motion. There is a possibility of finding another provider using a different bus.
Faust says while upper limits on funding have been set, she’s going to look for ways to offset the cost, such as through corporate sponsorships.
“If it sounds good and makes sense, the money is there to go ahead,” she says.
Director Ron Mickel voted against the expanded Blewett service because it was introduced just prior to the budget’s adoption. He hoped further planning could take place before money was committed.
“I hate to speak against it,” he said. “Transit is a motherhood thing.”
Mickel worries unless a separate run is created, current riders will find their commute greatly extended as the bus winds its way through Blewett.
However, he supported the later North Shore run.