Local politicians and community stakeholders will be climbing aboard BC Transit Tuesday to celebrate the launch of the West Kootenay Transit Committee’s new integrated regional system.
The committee, which brought together three local governments and nine transit systems last year, await the unveiling of one single rider’s guide that covers transit from Nakusp to Rossland and from Kaslo to Fruitvale.
Greater Trail committee members Larry Gray, Don Duclos and Kathy Wallace will join their colleagues, media personnel and BC Transit representatives to roll out a new system on the same day a free ride will be offered to regular transit users.
They will hop on the 99 Kootenay Connector bus at Ward and Baker streets in Nelson just after 9:40 a.m., stop at Selkirk College in Castlegar to transfer over to the 98 Columbia Connector at 10:30 a.m. to arrive in Trail at Cedar and Spokane streets just after 11 a.m.
A few parking spots will be blocked off at the final destination, where there will be a small celebration.
“Public transit is quite expensive for a rural area when we’ve got such a wide geography we’re dealing with so it’s all about efficiencies and effectiveness and if we can pool our fleet and basically make a system that works for the whole area, it becomes much more efficient,” explained Wallace, committee vice chair.
“The other big thing is creating a service that works from the rider’s perspective. That’s what the whole direction has been. It’s way easier to understand, there’s one rider’s guide for the whole region.”
The committee has now created three zones for the entire region, including the Columbia zone — which melds Castlegar, Trail, Fruitvale, Rossland and the former Kootenay Boundary service — meaning people can ride anywhere in the zone for one rate.
The other two zones — Slocan zone (Playmor Junction up to Slocan City) and the Kootenay zone, which includes Nelson — can be accessed by the all-zone or regional pass.
Prior to the change, people had to pay two top ups, paying as much as $5.50 to travel across the multiple service areas, and consult several different rider guides to figure out how to get there.
Now the local zone fare for Greater Trail stays at $2 but will include Castlegar, while the all-zone fare is $3.50, down from $4.
The goal of the committee was to develop a transit system for the area, where someone can get on a bus in Trail and travel straight through to Castlegar, the Slocan Valley, Nakusp, or Nelson and all points in between.
Sharman Thomas, Trail Transit Services Inc. supervisor, said the push to become one system really started with the bus connection to Castlegar and expanded from there.
He looks forward to the affordable system, which will for the first time offer a schedule that will connect Rossland and Fruitvale riders to Nelson.
“It’s really going to be a lot more user friendly and a lot simpler — people didn’t like the complexity before when you didn’t know what you were going to get when you got into the next zone or next community,” he said. “Now, all the operators are trying to get one standard from everything from fares, transfers to even uniforms.”
Thomas anticipates ridership will go up from the 1,200 riders that currently use transit in Trail.
Along with the cohesive guide is a new four-month semester pass available to any student within the region for $125.
All passes can be purchased at Greater Trail municipal offices, the Kootenay Boundary Regional District office or at Shoppers Drug Mart in Trail.