West Kootenay Transit open houses will help shape future

The public transit system within the West Kootenay stands poised to become one of the few truly regional transit systems in the province.

The public transit system within the West Kootenay stands poised to become one of the few truly regional transit systems in the province.

The West Kootenay Transit Committee is holding a series of open houses within the region to inform the public of the plans and seek final input before it goes fully operational in the spring of 2013.

“We’re looking at these open houses as opportunities to show the map of the proposed system and outline the fares and schedules for the public,” said Meribeth Burton, corporate spokesperson for BC Transit.

“We want to give people an idea of how it will look in the spring and ask if the schedule works.”

The goal of the committee has been 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 between.

The West Kootenay Transit system incorporates seven different regions currently operating nine different systems into a single entity.

The advantage of the regional system is that pooling the transit resources of many smaller communities reduces the operational cost for all and provides greatly increased convenience for people wanting to travel throughout the area without having to use personal vehicles.

“The smaller the system, the more expensive it is to operate,” said Burton.

“With shared buses, common routes, and coordinated schedules it reduces the costs for everybody. There is strength in numbers.”

The committee, made up of area directors from each of the Central Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary Regional Districts along with a council representative from the City of Nelson was created to work together to manage resources and funding.

The group has been notably successful in their coordinated work, being honoured with a Community Excellence Award in the Partnerships category at the annual Union of BC Municipalities meeting in September.

Although there are a few other examples of regional systems in the province, in the Kelowna/West Kelowna are and on Vancouver Island, the West Kootenay example is rare in that it was mainly a grassroots initiative that ties together numerous smaller communities spread over a wide geographical area.

Burton explained that much of the drive for creating the system came from input from people in the region.

“One of the loudest voices we heard was from students in the area,” she said. “It’s more affordable for them to be able to continue living at home in Trail, for example, and carry on their post-secondary education in Castlegar or Nelson. It also has the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The West Kootenay Transit Committee will be holding its local open house at the Trail Campus of Selkirk College, Dec. 6  from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the public is invited to attend to find out more about the regional system.