Nelson city council took some of the final steps towards the West Kootenay/Boundary regional transit system at last week’s council meeting.
The city agreed to a BC Transit memorandum of understanding, which includes participation in the regional transit committee, a single schedule system, and a regional fare structure.
“It absolutely is a big step for Nelson, but it’s a terrific opportunity for us to get some consolidation of the transit system throughout the West Kootenay/Boundary area,” said Mayor John Dooley.
The regional system will unite service between Nelson, Balfour, Trail, Castlegar, Kaslo, Nakusp, the Slocan Valley and Kootenay Lake West.
“I think the plan that they are putting forward is extremely positive and would enhance the experience for riders and make it a much more cohesive unit,” said Dooley.
Riders will notice changes particularly around fees and schedules where they will be able to purchase a transit pass in Nelson that will get them all the way to Trail through Castlegar for one fee.
“It will mean that buses that used to come into Nelson, for example, and would be parked for the remainder of the day will now do additional runs in Nelson,” said Dooley.
“The bus coming in to Nelson from the North Shore will go around to the hospital, which doesn’t currently happen. We’ll also be able to utilize the smaller buses on the low ridership hours instead of using the large buses, which are more expensive to operate and are just more cumbersome to get around the city.”
The City of Nelson has been reviewing its local transit service since the summer of last year, which involved route changes and the elimination of Sunday service.
“It’s going to help address some of the concerns that have been brought up around transit, but you have to remember when you work in isolation as we’ve all been doing you tend to purchase and select buses for your peak periods,” said Dooley.
In Nelson, the peak periods are typically in the mornings as people are headed off to work and school and in the afternoons when they are returning home.
“We needed the larger buses to carry that load, but if you’re taking the bus at 1 p.m. the maximum passenger load can be five to 15 people. It doesn’t make sense to be continuously using those large buses so now that bus can be used for example to carry students to Selkirk College in Castlegar.”
Councillor Donna Macdonald was appointed to represent the City of Nelson on the West Kootenay regional transit committee which will meet four times a year.