B.C. Transit discusses proposed new local changes at Castlegar open houses
B.C. Transit held an a pair of open houses in Castlegar on Dec. 5 at Selkirk College and at the recreation centre. The open house showed off the details for the proposed new fare structure and route changes for the West Kootenay/Boundary area.
"What we've got here is the proposed changes that we're looking to implement," said Kevin Schubert, regional transit manager for B.C. Transit. "We're looking for feedback. The changes, because they're regional, are so significant. This is an opportunity for rider, or potential riders, to look at the service and tell us - is their something we've missed? What are the improvements? What are the positives? So, it's a little different, but we've got some great feedback so far. I'm really happy with the response."
Schubert admitted that the bus schedules and fare structures for West Kootenay Transit can be hard to understand for many people. Beginning on April 1, 2013, fares are proposed to have just two different structures: local zone and all zones.
"Probably the two most significant changes riders will experience is that there will be a single rider's guide to represent all the services available in the Kootenays," he said. "So you won't have to be necessarily be conscious of what service you're in. As part of that, there's a single fare structure. Now you'll have three different zones you can travel within and once you leave that zone you go to an all-zone fare. So, you're basically looking at two fares. In Castlegar, one of the biggest changes is that the local zone now includes the Kootenay boundary. So Castlegar and Kootenay boundary together now make up the Columbia zone. So you'll have one fare to go anywhere in that area. "
Local zone trips will cost $2 for everyone, with a ticket book of 10 costing $18 for adults, $15.75 for seniors and students. Monthly passes would be $50 for adults and $35 for seniors and students.
All zone fares, which would enable the rider to travel throughout all three zones (Slocan, Kootenay, which is Nelson and area, and Columbia, which includes Castlegar, Trail, Fruitvale and Rossland), would be $3.50 per person. A ticket book of 10 would be $31.50 for adults and $27.50 for seniors and students. A monthly pass would cost $90 for adults, and $78.75 for seniors and students.
Schubert says they've had some very good suggestions.
"We've heard a lot about connections in Slocan Valley," he said. "We've had a lot of feedback from Selkirk students and staff about what might be more convenient times to meet certain programs. Whether they require that trip into Nelson, or local service into downtown Castlegar. We'll definitely make some changes. Most of the feedback we've got in Castlegar (at the rec centre) has been mostly positive especially in regards to the fare structure."
Transit ridership in Castlegar has increased dramatically since the number of routes have increased.
"We went from what was really a single route milk-run, to six unique trips, so you can get to your destination quicker," said Schubert. "That was a significant service expansion. So we expect to see Castlegar to continue to grow. We're really pleased with the ridership in the corridor and we really want to build on that and take advantage of efficiencies that are offered. So when those regional buses come into town, they overlap the local service."
Schubert says B.C. Transit will take all the feedback received and will look at where to make improvements.
"The next step is, we take all this feedback and we look at what improvements have been missed, what has been critically important that we have changed," he said.
Residents can still provide feedback by going to B.C. Transit's website and completing the online survey by Dec. 14.
"It's critical that we get as much feedback as possible," said Schubert. "Because when we tweak this, we look to see what are the key pieces we don't want to touch, and where do we need to make improvements. That'll get finalized for the schedule that will go forward in April (2013)."