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Transit meeting looks to cure system deficiencies

Today is the first meeting intended to bring integration to nine separate operating transit systems including Trail, Castlegar and Nelson

You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Similar to counter cultural author Ken Kesey’s comment about the Merry Pranksters in 1964, regional transit operators have had their own share of questions in wondering if people were either on or off the bus.

Today in Nelson public transportation history will be made in the West Kootenay area with the first meeting of a regional committee intended to bring integration to nine separate operating systems, including the one serving Greater Trail.

Over the course of the next few months, the committee will develop a single schedule system and regional fare structure, creating a unified regional system whereby a person who boards a bus in Trail could travel through Castlegar to Nelson having only paid once.

The confusion and duplicity inherent in the current system for bus riders traveling between communities will be dissolved in the fall when the changes take place, said Meribeth Burton, B.C. Transit corporate spokesperson.

“The greatest benefit is for customers who could really get any where they want to go in the West Kootenay in a cohesive way,” she said.

The regional committee will help unite service between Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, Kaslo, Nakusp and the Slocan Valley, creating the venue for transit service providers to share common problems and come up with solutions, make sure systems are all interconnected, easy to navigate and combine resources.

Burton said B.C. Transit went to local governments last year and made the pitch for regional transit.

All municipal councils and regional district directors signed on, said Burton, and everyone “put their own agendas aside for benefit of the riders of the region.”

“The new transit system is a great example of regional cooperation. It will benefit riders, and increase their numbers, by delivering a more efficient and flexible service,” said Nelson councilor Donna Macdonald, who represents the Heritage City on the committee. “It’s also a key part of local governments’ commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In the first meeting roles, responsibilities and cost sharing will be the first order of business, and where the resources will be utilized. As time wears on, schedule timing, transit connector points, and an equitable fare will be set.

Because local governments had set the level of service they want in place and the subsequent fare they would charge, those decisions will now be made by the committee as it begins operation as one transit system.

As well, the committee will determine if they want extra service routes, but it will come at a cost, said Burton. And cost sharing will likely be based on the degree of usage, with each area’s costs based proportionally on the amount of people that ride the bus.

“There is no plan in place right now to change the routes, but to best use buses throughout the region,” said Burton.

Seamless regional transit should be in place for peak usage season beginning in September.