Celebrate transit with a free bus ride

To celebrate the beginning of the 15th year of public transit in Cranbrook, all trips will be free on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

The Dennis Dart — serving Cranbrook since December

The Dennis Dart — serving Cranbrook since December

To celebrate the beginning of the 15th year of public transit in Cranbrook, all trips will be free on Wednesday, Dec. 3. The free rides apply to both the fixed route and handyDART services.

The fixed-route service was first introduced in Cranbrook in December 2000.

“Since that time passenger trips have more than doubled,” noted Merideth Burton. “In 2001/02, BC Transit supplied nearly 100,000 passenger trips. In 2013/14, those passenger trips climbed to more than 217,000.”

Burton said some of the major milestones for transit services in Cranbrook over the years include the introduction of the UPass at the College of the Rockies in 2006, the unveiling of the new downtown exchange in 2008 and the expansion of weekend service with longer hours on Friday and Saturday evenings in 2014.

Fourteen years ago, on Friday, Dec. 1, 2000, Cranbrook joined other cities in the Kootenays like Rossland, Castlegar, Trail, Creston and Nelson with a new public transit system.

In fact, at the time, Cranbrook was the last large community in B.C. to get a fixed-route transit system.

Sandy Forman, the Senior Planner the Municipal Program for BC Transit at the time, called the transit system a great step forward for Cranbrook.

“A transit system is one of those things, like parks, like your Recreation Complex, that changes a city from being just a city into a more liveable city,” Forman said.

Longtime city councillor Jim Wavrecan agreed. Since he was elected in 1986 he’d pushed for a public transit system.

The Dennis Dart buses were specifically designed for smaller communities in B.C. by BC Transit and the British company Dennis.

BC Transit, the City of Cranbrook and contract company Gray Line, collaborated in the 12 months before the buses were introduced. On the start date in 2000, Cranbrook had four of the buses begin their routes around Cranbrook, with their first stop in front of the clock tower.

Mike Cafferky of Gray Line noted that a system like the one Cranbrook had just put in was no “more expensive than the cost of trying to put in a mile of highway.”

Cafferky said in that regard it’s a good investment.

John Darula, one of the drivers of the buses, said they are spacious, modern and clean.

“Most of these things are glass,” he noted of the buses. “It’s like being on a tour bus.”

The routes, like they do now, followed Cranbrook’s main vehicular arteries to all the important locations of the city — the hospital, the College of the Rockies, the Tamarack Centre, most elementary schools, the out of the way residential areas. Then it takes you back downtown.

For more information on transit in Cranbrook call 250-417-4636 or visit the website.