Kootenay politicians pieced together a transit puzzle at Nelson’s City Hall on Wednesday morning — figuratively and literally.
The gathering was a kick-off for the new regional committee on transit that will eventually integrate nine separate operating systems into a single schedule and regional fare structure. There was a lot of talk of the historic importance of the day, the president and CEO of BC Transit gave a speech, and the nine members of the new committee put together a giant puzzle of our region to illustrate the future.
To the casual observer passing by the gathering in council chambers that morning, it might have seemed like a lot of hoopla for a committee meeting. But beyond the huge puzzle pieces and grinning politicians, there was plenty of substance to the event.
Canadians love their vehicles and in the rural reaches of this country that fondness is even stronger. Access to reliable transportation is a lifeline that makes living in the boondocks much more convenient. As we look around at some of the major issues facing the planet — global warming, rising gas prices, oil reserves — those days are slowly eroding. The days when every family owns two cars will eventually be a historical curiosity.
Linking the communities of the West Kootenay — from Nakusp to Trail to Kaslo — is important for today, but vital for tomorrow. And that’s why there is so much ceremony around the new committee.
BC Transit provided the spark two years ago, but it has taken cooperation between all the communities involved to get to this stage. That’s not always easy. Parochial politics has dominated our region since the incorporations of Nelson, Castlegar and Trail. In recent years that city state mentality has waned as leaders realize in many respects we are stronger together than apart.
The committee must now sort out the details of the new partnership and that may take up to a year. Once complete, it will be up to leaders throughout the region to sell residents on the benefits of transit. In the short term, figuring out the puzzle on that societal shift may difficult, but eventually it will become our rural reality.