The move towards expanded bus service in Salmon Arm is slowly gaining ground.
BC Transit announced to the city that the province has approved its share of funding for approximately 1,200 additional service hours annually to the Shuswap Transit system.
City staff told council on May 25 that the increase in hours would include providing service on Sundays, as well as having later evening service on Fridays and Saturdays, plus later service on weekdays. The changes, which will be detailed closer to their implementation, are not expected to take place until January 2022.
Although revenues on Shuswap Transit have decreased due to the pandemic, they have been offset by the province’s Safe Restart funding. Changes to the way the city is billed for transit services has also helped the city’s transit budget.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said she is grateful the route changes are coming and expressed her appreciation for bus drivers.
“Transit has been an essential service during the pandemic, responsible for getting frontline workers to and from work, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. I offer them my sincere thanks.”
Coun. Tim Lavery said the expansion is great news and noted the city has prepared for it for for two-and-a-half years, setting money aside.
He asked whether the ‘kids ride for free’ program would be operating this year and was told, yes, in July and August.
Mayor Alan Harrison congratulated Coun. Chad Eliason for initiating the idea of kids riding free.
“You were about a decade ahead of the large metropolitan areas in the province, they have followed your lead. We’re pleased to see that continuing.”
Harrison also acknowledged the provincial government’s part in keeping transit rolling.
“In my opinion, I think the province has really stick-handled the transit piece well in a very difficult time,” he said. “As a city I think we need to be appreciative they have offset the realized loss of revenues, while also understanding the essential piece of that service, because we know that many of those people who ride transit here do not own their own vehicle. So it is an essential service that’s needed and I appreciate the province assisting us…”
Shuswap Connextions, a local self-advocacy group for people with disabilities based at Okanagan College, began lobbying for better transit service in the area in 2015.