Service changes, like the Saturday connector between Trail and Castlegar, had more people hopping onto BC Transit last year. (Trail Times file photo)

More riders boarding Greater Trail public transit

Regional directors recently reviewed BC Transit’s 2016/17 annual performance summary

Service changes, like the Saturday connector between Trail and Castlegar, had more people hopping onto BC Transit last year.

East End Services directors recently reviewed the transit’s annual summary of performance, which revealed a 14 per cent increase in both semester passes and individual tickets as well as a whooping 91 per cent increase in monthly passes.

(Mostly due to a change in government policy regarding the issuance of bus passes for those on disability)

BC Transit attributed the ongoing influx of international students at Selkirk College as a contributing factor in more ridership and revenue, which increased seven per cent in the past year.

“The corridor service continues to grow,” says Trevor Stach, general manager for Trail Transit Services. “The early buses from Trail to Castlegar are standing room only, anectodally I can say we have a lot of people who commute for both work and school.”

The revenue increase was almost balanced by a six per cent total cost escalation, though BC Transit notes further increases were mitigated by a 29 per cent savings in fuel costs.

Fuel expenses may again improve throughout the West Kootenay service over the next 12 months with two new 30-foot Vicinity buses that run mostly in Castlegar, (the two new vehicles replaced two older 30-foot buses) as well as six new standard 35-foot buses expected to land in Trail in 2018.

The buses replace 17-year old models, so they are more fuel efficient and run with new emission standards.

“It was time for the renewal of our fleet,” Stach confirmed. “We are scheduled to receive six new buses in Trail next year.”

Over the past year, a service review was the primary focus within the Greater Trail bus system.

BC Transit hosted open houses to gather insight from its ridership before finalizing recommendations for RDKB directors to consider.

After reviewing under-performing routes and suggesting a re-working of hours to higher ridership runs, regional officials approved a series of cost neutral service changes, which began in August.

“The most notable changes resulted in shortening the Glenmerry area routing to improve effectiveness of Route 43 Glenmerry/Fruitvale,” the report noted. “And based on low ridership, discontinuing Route 47 Tadanac and some service to Sunningdale on Route 44 on two trips.”

In addition to the service changes, the West Kootenay Transit Committee and its stakeholders approved a new fare structure that allows residents to travel anywhere within the West Kootenay Transit System for a single one-way cash fare of $2.25.

Also approved was the introduction of the DayPASS, which allows riders to travel all day within the entire West Kootenay region for $4.50.

BC Transit states, “These changes will make it easier and more convenient to ride the bus by eliminating fare zones while making the service more affordable for riders travelling across the region.”

The new 30-foot Vicinity buses can seat 24 and accommodate 20 standing passengers, and the standard 35-foot buses have a capacity of 30 seats and 24 standees.

The state-of-the-art rigs have closed-circuit TV cameras to improve safety and monitoring, two mobility aids, a bike rack, and doors at the front and the back for ease of entry and egress.

The smaller buses cost about $319,000 each, while the larger buses run around $347,000. They were funded by the province and local government via a lease-fee program, and a $160 million federal and provincial funding program for BC Transit projects.

Funding for the local transit system is cost-shared between the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, City of Nelson and BC Transit.

Decisions on fares, routes and service levels are made by local governments based on recommendations by the West Kootenay Transit Committee (made up of local government representatives), resulting from public feedback and information provided by BC Transit. Buses are operated by Trail Transit Services, Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services and the City of Nelson.

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