LETTER: The cost of transit

Reader Josh Wapp analyzes transit funding and says,"We must look like cave-dwellers to most Europeans."

Re: “Nelson publishes payments to businesses, organizations, and staff

You’ve stated that the city pays $604,997 to BC Transit and that this is 47 per cent of the cost of running transit within the city.

However, it is my understanding that riders’ fares cover roughly one- third of the cost of running transit in BC, another third by the province and the remainder is from municipal and/or regional district taxes.

On the BC Auditor General’s website, they give examples of the different kinds of expense sharing in different BC municipalities and explain how fares (and, in some cases, in combination with fuel taxes in places outside Nelson and area) contribute to roughly one third of operating expenses.  It is my understanding, unless this has changed recently, that the City of Nelson’s taxes contribute roughly one-third of the costs for transit for Nelson routes, which is less than 47 per cent.

I’ve been meaning to write a letter for some time regarding the situation on buses in Nelson. Buses are an essential service. Even if someone is married to their automobile, having more buses and fewer cars means they can find parking sooner, run less risk of an accident (so their insurance rates and policing costs go down), can breathe fresher air downtown, and not see youth hanging around downtown, getting into trouble, while waiting for a bus. Business should also think highly of buses, especially pubs and restaurants serving alcohol, and any retailer should think of them as an investment in more foot traffic.

Public transit is crucial to healthy communities; we must look like cave-dwellers to most Europeans.  Sentiments such as “Why should I pay for someone else to ride the bus, especially when there are hardly any riders?” are things I’ve heard too many times. Under this logic, why should I pay for plowing and sanding of roads to someone else’s house when there are so few cars in their neighbourhood? Or, why should I pay for an ambulance to your house since you live in a sparsely populated area? The numbers game and running an essential service as a business is wrong. We fund buses because it’s the right thing to do. Ecologically, socially, mentally, and physically, it is an important facet of any urban space, community and society.

I believe bad decisions have been made with our transit system in Nelson. It has been, over the years, cut back incrementally, year after year, to now resemble some kind of milk run. There are currently twice daily waits of almost an hour and a half in Uphill routes, during weekday business hours! It used to be much more viable for someone to use it on a regular basis. Also, the decision to amalgamate with the regional district has added more layers of bureaucracy, and more opportunities to pass the buck.

I believe we deserve better than this. Please tell your council and regional directors to put some real dollars into buses, stand up to the province, and put on some more routes so people can drive less. I know I have and will continue to do so.

Josh Wapp