Downtown Trail bus exchange, fall of 2018. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Revamping Trail bus exchange is gaining speed

$20,000 being directed into an “Infrastructure Exploration Agreement”

Lack of shelter and seating at the central bus exchange in downtown Trail has long been a sore point with city officials and Trail Transit – not to mention the ridership.

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Whether the sun is beating, rain is showering, or snow is falling on Cedar Avenue, there’s little comfort for anyone waiting to catch, or transfer to, a public transit bus.

“When I go to Kelowna or other cities I see neat, clean, and covered shelters with adequate seating,” says regional director for Trail, Coun. Robert Cacchioni.

“As far as the bus exchange downtown, it is a total disgrace to have seniors, women with children, and citizens in general, sitting out without shelter even through the winter.”

The ongoing need for improvement – and the possibility of moving the site to another Trail location – is finally making headway now that regional directors set aside $20,000 for a design and feasibility study.

Specifically, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) board recently agreed to a three-way cost-share for a $60,000 “Infrastructure Exploration Agreement” with BC Transit and the City of Nelson, whereby a consultant will collaboratively design new transit exchanges for both cities.

The money is coming from reserves so there is no tax impact for the study, Cacchioni continued.

“Discussions actually have been going on for about three years with very little done,” he said. “This issue has come up now because we have support from Area B and Warfield representatives on the transit committee, and we are now raising these issues because they should’ve been raised before.”

Extra backing from neighbouring communities and more transit committee meetings (every two months instead of three times per year) boosts the support coming from partners in the East End service area, which encompasses the municipalities of Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose and Fruitvale, as well as Areas A and B.

“Linda Worley (Area B director) and Arlene Parkinson (Warfield councillor) are the two representatives that should also be commended for supporting these initiatives,” Cacchioni added. “We also have a wide range of support across the total East End … the support of the East End, and now of the board, is critical in addressing this situation.”

Aside from committing $20,000 to get the wheels rolling on a better transit exchange, Cacchioni says the board passed a motion for a full analysis of all bus shelters in the immediate area.

He says public transit services currently have a five-year window whereby municipalities can garner 80 per cent of costs for shelter improvements via federal and provincial government grants.

“I have put these motions through as I believe we are totally under funded as far as shelters are concerned,” he stressed.

After attending a transit conference held a few months ago, Cacchioni further opined about a disconnect between big city and rural service needs.

In particular, he mentioned a new cell phone app being introduced so, in one go, riders can find out if their bus is on time. That is all good, but in the immediate service zone, there are bus stops with no cover or seating.

“This is an issue that was raised when we looked … to have a basic standard across the province,” he explained. “Most of the people from BC Transit are from the Lower Mainland, and I don’t believe they have a clear idea of the challenges we face in rural areas, especially in the winter.”

One example is the bus stop in Rivervale, which doesn’t have any shelter from the elements, at all.

“People have to stand knee-deep in snow along the roadway in order to be picked up,” Cacchioni said. “So when I look at other cities, we are far behind and seem to be left out in this area. This is unacceptable and needs to be corrected as soon as possible.”

The City of Trail sent a letter to the RDKB back in November 2016, expressing dismay about the lack of suitable shelter at downtown bus stops, and council encouraged the regional district to provide improvements.

Trail also asked the East End Services Committee to keep the request in mind during 2017 budget deliberations.

In January 2017, the committee was informed about a Transit Service Review which was completed the previous summer. This review also identified problems with the main exchange, such as limited seating and accessibility, and it outlined alternate locations.

The study recommended a two-phased approach that would begin with an immediate investment to address “critical issues” at the existing site on Cedar Avenue, such as the installation of a new shelter or awning, as well as new benches and signage.

Of note, is that the building running parallel to the main exchange is privately-owned. That means costs for a new awning, for example, are not eligible for funding by BC Transit.

Many of the existing shelters throughout the service area were installed in 2010 through a special UBCM/public transit infrastructure funding stream that provided 100 per cent funding for transit shelters.

The West Kootenay Transit System (formerly known as Kootenay Boundary Transit System) is the public transit system in Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, and surrounding areas. The transit services are operated from the three cities and serve Rossland, Warfield, Genelle, Montrose, Fruitvale, Salmo, Kaslo, Creston, and Nakusp.

Funding is provided under a partnership between the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Regional District of Central Kootenay 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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Downtown Trail bus exchange, July 2019. (Trail Times photo)

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