The public transit buses in Cranbrook — and the East Kootenay region — will be operating under the auspices of Trail Transit, BC Transit announced this week. (Townsman file photo)

Charting a path forward on transit services in Cranbrook

Council, administration have options to consider as the city looks to streamline transit system

City council will have some options to consider regarding the future of transit services in Cranbrook, following recommendations from a consultant tasked with studying the issues facing the system.

Hiring a transit coordinator to work with administration and BC Transit was one of the top suggestions from a consultant studying the issue. A transit coordinator position would provide oversight of the local system, address customer issues, and liaise with BC Transit to provide input on service planning and adjustments.

The consultant delivered a presentation to city council on Nov. 23, and the report was received simply for information as the administration continues to investigate options for the future of transit services for the city.

There has been a lack of focus on a service contract between the city and BC Transit in years past, according to Mark Fercho , the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Cranbrook.

“I think this work that we did with BC Transit, if you’ve noticed, has got a high degree of attention from BC Transit, as well as the community and council, and highlighted where those shortcomings are so there’s some interest now in improving some of those things,” Fercho said, during a discussion on the issue.

“We provide them a contract where they do that, but we’re not providing the direct control and oversight in the way we should nor have they been providing Cranbrook with the service they should and both sides have recognized that so now we’re in a place to start addressing that.

“So moving forward, I hope this has been a great reset with where we’re going to go with transit.”

Administration has been studying transit service in the city in order to determine the most appropriate way forward, whether that be fixed routes or on-demand service.

The consultant also recommended that the city continue to lobby BC Transit to provide on-demand transit and review existing routes to ensure they justify passenger demand. A further recommendation included collaboration on a Transit Services Standards agreement which would provide a framework on monitoring and measuring Cranbrook’s transit system.

Over the course of the study, the consultant concluded that transit use in Cranbrook has been declining over the last decade, with no investigation into why ridership has dropped. Cranbrook also has multiple “under-performing” fixed routes, which may be better utilized with on-demand service.

Additionally, the consultant concluded that BC Transit would be the ideal operator of transit services, as opposed to utilizing an independent third-party provider, which would mean much higher municipal costs, as the city would be the sole funder of the system and would no longer receive provincial transit grants to offset costs.

BC Transit is currently reviewing on-demand transit opportunities across the province, and Cranbrook is serving as a case study. The Crown corporation is also due to conduct a service review of Cranbrook’s current system in the near future.

The City recent approved funding to renew BC Transit services until 2023. The total cost of operating transit services in the city run approximately $2.1 million, with the city’s cost-share at approximately $900,000.