The City of Cranbrook is seeking feedback from East Kootenay residents to explore options for a regional transit service.
Cranbrook is working with other local municipalities, sectors and stakeholders to gather public opinion on a possible regional bus service.
The proposed service could eventually include the airport and Aq’am community near Cranbrook, Creston in the south-west to Elkford in the north-east, and Kimberley, Cranbrook and Fernie.
A public online survey is seeking input from the public is available until June 30. See more below.
“The more input the better,” said Mike Matejka, Director of the Engineering and Community Services with the City of Cranbrook.
Matejka said the initial survey is meant for individual residents, whether they are people that want to use the transit system or whether they’re business owners.
“We had a soft target of maybe 150 responses during this one month window. We reached out to our stakeholders, we provided information — and in the first 24 hours we exceeded that initial lowball target.”
That there is great interest in the community, and the region, about the potential for a regional transit system is apparent from the responses so far.
“We see a lot of buzz around it, in the community and on social media,” Matejka said. “That’s the initial survey we’re going to do right now — on an individual community basis. Once we get those results we will analyze them and go back and do some more dedicated stakeholder engagement with the municipalities that seem to have expressed an interest, and some of those other sector partners … the tourism advocacy groups, the business advocacy groups, Interior Health also runs some services for health based scenarios.
“We do want to make sure we’re looking at those other, broader sectors in this initial community member-based survey.”
There is certainly a gap, and a need, for regional transit. The current concept was initially based around servicing the City of Cranbrook and the Canadian Rockies International Airport, and the Aq’am community and the St. Eugene Resort.
“That was initially part of what we were looking at — we felt at the same time we might as well expand that to east and west of here — in the East Kootenay, while we’re gathering all this information,” Matejka said. “We felt it was a good time to look at a broad approach to what the interest is, a broad approach to looking at all the other local governments and stakeholders in the study area.”
Matejka said the pandemic caused a lot of issues with the viability of having a lot of such shuttle services, especially with the hotel and accommodation sector, as well as the airport.
“Even though we’re a larger hub community in the East Kootenay, we’re still a relatively small community. Overall, in this study area, it’s a catchment area of around 60-70,000 people. You look cities with a larger population threshold. One service, one sector can’t really do this alone. Which is why we’re looking at input from all types of stakeholders to see if there’s a way forward for everybody to get involved, to make it more financially viable.
“It makes it more of a more logistical challenge, but I think we’ve realized that all the people that can benefit from this and would be willing to contribute their share of the resources is one of the only ways to try to make a good run at it.”
Matejka said this isn’t the first time the idea of a regional transit system has been broached, but this time the most comprehensive approach that’s been done.
“The best thing is to go into this without any assumptions or presumptions, and then keep our options open.
We want to see what we can do. That’s the right way to approach this, is to look at what the demand and interest is, look at where that’s coming from and why, and be open to a broad array of solutions.
He added that the concept that arises from this initial research may not necessarily be a conventional transit or shuttle system.
“We may have to look at more studies or information — it may involve working with the private sector [for example], to consider whether taxi or shuttle or on-demand services are available. We’re trying to keep those options open.”
The survey is available until June 30, 2023, and can be seen here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/eastkootenayregionalbus