By April cuffy
In a move that will surely have car-less citizens, and Selkirk College students in particular rejoicing, Castlegar City Council passed a motion September 2 to support the West Kootenay Transit expansion project.
“We’re looking to make it more attractive so more people will use the buses,” said Castlegar Mayor, Lawrence Chernoff at the September 2 council meeting, adding that “it’s going to be great for the students at Selkirk.”
Administered by the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), the Kootenay Lake West Transit Service Amendment Bylaw No. 2354 was originally raised in 2013, and will see implementation as early as October of this year, with full changes being implemented by January 2015.
While the bylaw will see positive transit improvements for all communities serviced by the BC Transit-run public transportation system, Castlegar in particular will benefit from regular Saturday buses, something which has previously not happened in the community. In addition, residents of the Grandview Housing community in south Castlegar will benefit from buses being routed to the area.
However, while the new services are viewed as positive for the area, Chernoff cautioned that “if the usage isn’t there, we’re not going to get to institute it,” meaning that low ridership on the new routes could potentially threaten the services over the long-term.
Overall, the added services are part of a three-year expansion plan proposed by the West Kootenay Transit Committee, aimed at increasing connectivity between Castlegar, Nelson and Trail, and improving ridership to currently under-served, remote areas.
“BC Transit is extremely happy,” Chernoff said.
Funding for the venture will draw from RDCK district areas in the amount of $1,275,000, requisitioned annually through property tax values, of which the City of Castlegar shares a 3.9 per cent portion.
Also at the meeting, Councillor Deb McIntosh raised the question of how much ridership had increased in the past year, however no answer was given.
In addition, councillors Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff and Deb McIntosh also inquired whether the new expansion would see more shelters built in the region with schedules posted at both existing and new shelters, pointing out that the lack of current signage could be a possible cause of decreased ridership.