The City of Cranbrook is hoping to work with BC Transit to conduct a full-scale review of local transit services with an eye towards expanding to underserved areas such as Slaterville or outlying areas such as Gold Creek.
The issue came up as council discussed the renewal of the Cranbrook Transit Annual Operating Agreement with B.C. Transit. The crown corporation had also suggested undertaking a fare and tariff review, the last of which was done eight years ago.
However, Councillor Wes Graham suggested that the city should expand the scale and do a full-scale review of transit to see if any underserved areas can be identified before tweaking any fare rates.
“First off, when I look at the idea of a fare review, and I understand that we haven’t looked at a fare review since 2011, I truly think we need to do a full transit review. I think we’re missing the mark and looking at potentially upping the rate isn’t going to improve our ridership,” said Graham.
“…To me, I think we need to maybe back off looking at this [fare review] and request a full scale transit review and bring in our Area C director [Rob Gay] in ways we can work together to maybe help offset some of the transit costs and get some good ridership.
“I don’t think we’re taxed to a point where the system is overloaded with people or riders; I think we might have some peak moments, but overall I think we could drive ridership up as well as have a system that could champion us to the future.”
Most of the councillors agreed with the prudence of a full-scale review, with Coun. Ron Popoff suggesting the Aqam community and the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino as potential areas for transit expansion.
According to a report delivered to council last summer by B.C. Transit, there are five conventional buses in service for eight routes and three buses for subscription HandiDART services.
Mayor Pratt and council noted that the HandiDART services are overtaxed and debated the merits of addling additional HandiDART buses versus distributing an existing taxi-service coupon subsidized by the city and the province.
However, concerns over wheelchair accessibility for the taxi service were noted by a few council members, while city staff said an additional HandiDART bus is already on the way, if not already in service.
Transit services in Cranbrook is operated by a third-party that is overseen by B.C. Transit, with operating costs shared between the city and the crown corporation.
Cranbrook pays 53 per cent of the conventional service costs and 33 per cent of the custom service costs. For 2019, Cranbrook’s estimated subsidy of the conventional services, adjusting for projected revenue, is $590,000. The expected subsidy of the custom services, again accounting for projected revenue, is $121,000.
Council approved the Transit Annual Operating Agreement, but deferred the fare and tariff review back to city staff in order to coordinate a full-scale regional review of transit services with B.C. Transit.