BC Transit plans to add two new round trips on its Route 99 between Nelson and Castlegar as soon as the system returns to 2019 volumes, according to a BC Transit representative.
“Post-COVID, there will be fresh problems on that bus,” she said, “because we may have more people who are less comfortable in crush-load situations.”
McMullen said improving overcrowding on the Nelson-Castlegar route is the top priority for BC Transit in the Nelson area in the immediate future.
Other fixes planned for the next two to three years include:
• Introducing three round trips per day between Nelson and Salmo to coincide with high school hours and office hours.
• Extending the 4:04 p.m. North Shore bus to continue to Balfour and meet the demand of ferry passengers, rather than ending the trip at Six Mile.
• Adding buses to Route 2 Fairview. “In morning peak times (sometimes) there are 60 rides per hour,” said McMullen. “This is higher than we see in some routes in the Victoria system and this is cause for concern.”
• Developing a custom handyDART system for Nelson. McMullen said the current system is “cobbled together with opportunity trips that come down from (handyDART systems in) Nakusp and Kaslo.”
HandyDART is a door-to-door shared transit service for people with disabilities that prevent them from using fixed-route transit.
In the longer term (three-to-five years) BC Transit hopes to combine the Nelson-Castlegar and the Trail-Castlegar runs into a single route, making it unnecessary for Trail-Nelson passengers to transfer in Castlegar.
On the infrastructure side, BC Transit and the City of Nelson plan to begin construction of its new downtown transit hub on the 300 block of Victoria Street this year.
BC Transit is a provincial Crown corporation that co-ordinates the delivery of transit in B.C., collaborating with municipal governments and splitting the costs approximately 50-50 with them. (BC Transit covers two-thirds of handyDART services.)
All of the transit changes listed above will be part of a larger future service plan to be presented to West Kootenay municipalities, and adopted by them, this year.
McMullen said the plan has been informed by a number of stakeholder workshops, open houses and campus events held in the West Kootenay over the past year.