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Bus service expanding to include Saturday run

In the early new year, bus service will be expanded to include Saturday bus service between Trail and Castlegar.

Anyone interested in visiting Castlegar or Nelson on Saturday, but doesn't have a set of wheels, can sit back and enjoy the ride on a city bus in the early new year.

There's no BC Transit service between Trail and Castlegar on weekends at the moment but a $12,000 bump from the East End Services, adds 230 hours and a new line to include the Route 98 Columbia Connector Saturday service.

Linking the two cities that day, provides the opportunity for ridership to transfer buses in Castlegar and continue their trip through to Nelson and the Slocan area on the Route 99 Kootenay Connector.

The new Saturday bus run adds to a successful service currently operating between Slocan and Nelson, noted Meribeth Burton, spokesperson from BC Transit.

The route is busiest January through April, she explained, and on average up to 60 passengers access the Saturday service, mostly to shop or attend cultural and recreational activities.

There are six round trips between Castlegar and Trail weekdays, which is a run that has increased ridership by almost two per cent since last year.

“The recently approved schedule would see three round trips from Castlegar to Trail (on Saturday),” she said.

“Better reflecting the regional connectivity weekdays on the West Kootenay Transit System.”

According to BC Transit's annual summary, there's been an overall regional increase of 2.6 per cent in ridership, and revenues are up one per cent.

The report shows an increase in the purchase of “fare products” (such as bus passes), it states that local routes are not doing as well as the connector routes.

Although EES representatives agreed for the local cost, $11,800, to expand the connector service into Saturday, the committee's decision was not unanimous.

Trail Coun. Robert Cacchioni, the city's regional district director, expressed concerns that RDKB transit costs are approaching $1.8 million, and this option isn't essential or beneficial, because funds would be better invested into the local service.

“I voted against because we were going to do a major review of transit prior to the 2015 budget,” Cacchioni added. “I wanted to reduce the total transit cost before moving to expand options.”

Last year, the City of Trail paid over $500,000 or about 44 per cent of the $1.2 million requisition for transit, confirmed David Perehudoff, Trail's chief administrative officer, adding that the requisition has been stable following a large increase (almost 15 per cent) in 2012.

The other opposed to expanding service was Montrose Mayor Joe Danchuk, who maintains the buses that now run often appear to be empty.

Decisions about 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), based on public feedback and information provided by BC Transit.

The future of public transit across British Columbia is under provincial review and a key strategy in the government's climate action agenda.

When people chose public transportation over using a vehicle for travel, transit services provide a range of benefits, from reduced road congestion to lower greenhouse gas emission.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure released a provincial transit plan in 2008, aimed at substantially expanding public transit province-wide by the end of 2020.

A recent audit of that plan revealed that it is falling short of its 2020 goal, and in response has launched a web-based resource called "Shaping Transit's Future in British Columbia," aimed to raise public awareness about the transit system and the challenges it faces.

Sheri Regnier

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