Transit expansion faces challenges

The prospect of getting more bus service in Salmon Arm in the near future doesn’t look promising

Some Shuswap citizens would like to see increased bus service

Some Shuswap citizens would like to see increased bus service

The prospect of getting more bus service in Salmon Arm in the near future doesn’t look promising, but that doesn’t mean the city should not request an increase.

Ryan Little, regional manager for BC Transit, addressed city council’s June 8 meeting where he said transit funding levels are forecast to “remain relatively flat” over the next three years, which includes this year.

He was responding to a question from Coun. Ken Jamieson who noted council has heard there will be a three-year funding freeze.

In previous years, funding has increased annually.

“As you know, the provincial budget is approved annually but it’s a three-year plan,” Little said, suggesting if the city has a request it should fine-tune it with the city’s director of engineering, Rob Niewenhuizen, and then send it to the provincial government.

“The likelihood (of more funding) wasn’t as great as in prior years, but it’s still only determined on an annual basis.”

He said in his opinion, although BC Transit receives lots of requests for expanded service, there is careful balancing between what is affordable and what is requested.

City council was presented with a petition in April from more than 250 citizens asking that busing hours be increased to 9 p.m. on weekdays and service be provided on Sunday.

“There is insufficient busing hours for the amount of residents, especially seniors and people with disabilities who have no other means aside from the city bus to get around in our community,” the petition read.

Louise Wallace Richmond asked if BC Transit would get the  petition. Niewenhuizen said the information could be passed along when council makes its request.

Coun. Kevin Flynn suggested that representatives of the industrial park make a presentation to council.

“Anybody who wants transit improvements (should present to council), make sure we’re on the same page.”

Coun. Chad Eliason encouraged the college students who were involved in circulating the petition to also present to council. He would like to see a collaboration between those who own buses.

“I’d like to see a hybrid version of transit buses – the school district’s buses, Interior Health’s buses…”

Little said the city funds about 45 per cent of the total cost of running the transit system, with the net municipal share $508,000 in the 2015/16 fiscal year.

Shuswap Transit provides 113,900 passenger trips per year and 9.6 trips per service hour with eight buses on eight routes, Little said.

He also told council that BC Transit just held its annual workshop in Harrison Hot Springs and will have another next year in Whistler.