City council has “put its money where its mouth is” when it comes to expanding bus service in Salmon Arm.
In a unanimous vote Monday, council agreed to allow city staff to sign a memorandum of understanding with BC Transit that identifies increases to transit service starting either in 2020 or 2021.
The service expansions include three of five recommendations from a 2017 Shuswap Regional Transit Service Performance Check-in by BC Transit, which was based on ridership and public feedback, as well as previous discussions with council and staff.
The three service expansions council committed to May 27, based on cost-sharing with the province, include:
• Sunday service on routes 1 (West Loop) and 2 (College/Hillcrest). The estimated cost is $56,929, with the city’s portion being $22,072.
• Later evening Friday and Saturday service to 10 p.m. on two routes to start in order to gauge popularity. Estimated cost is $22,772, with the city paying $8,769.
• Later evening service weekdays to 8 p.m. The estimated cost is $56,929, with a municipal share of $22,072.
Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said the earliest the improvements would be implemented would be September 2020. But he recommended they start in 2021
Council discussed at length the recommendation to extend service to the industrial park, but the majority thought it was too soon and too expensive to proceed at this time.
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren described herself as a huge proponent of increased transit service, noting she knows people who are considering moving to Vernon where they can access better bus service. She said she’d like to see the industrial park service proceed.
Coun. Debbie Cannon said she too is impatient for service expansions, but spoke to some businesses in the industrial park which favour waiting because it will be difficult to accommodate the different shifts people work.
Coun. Kevin Flynn noted the presence of Marianne VanBuskirk, chair of the board of education, and pointed out the city has wanted for years to find a way to use school buses whose use drops off considerably in the evenings.
Mayor Alan Harrison summed up the comments by noting the transit system in Salmon Arm costs about $1.1 million per year, of which the city pays about $600,000. He said he’s willing to commit to the three service expansions as council hasn’t made an investment for some time.
Council’s approval of the three service-expansion proposals means BC Transit can further investigate the plan and pursue provincial funding. The plan extends over three fiscal years from 2020-21 to 2022-23.