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Cranbrook eyes review of transit services

Review will help identify gaps, opportunities and potential new solutions for the future
The CIty of Cranbrook is eyeing a review of transit services and options. Trevor Crawley photo.

What does the future of transit look like in Cranbrook?

The City is hoping to explore that in the coming months, in terms of reviewing current service levels and identifying new ideas and technologies for the future of transit in Cranbrook.

While BC Transit recently signed a new contract with a Trail-based operator to provide transit services to communities across the East Kootenay, Cranbrook’s top administration official says he has put the provincial crown corporation ‘on notice’ that the city is interested in doing some things differently in the future.

“I think what I heard from council and what I’ve heard from staff is there’s some frustration on the fact that we’ve delivered the same service for quite a number of years without really doing an extensive review of that service,” said Mark Fercho, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Cranbrook.

“It is a conventional bus service and meanwhile, there’s been evolution in transit, ridership and disruptive technologies all over the place and why wouldn’t we look at that in Cranbrook?”

BC Transit signed a nine-year contract with West-Kootenay based Trail Transit to provide transit service to Cranbrook conventional, Cranbrook custom, Elk Valley, Columbia Valley, Kimberley and Creston Valley — an agreement valued at $8.2 million over the next three years. Previously, transit services had been provided by a number of independent operators in those communities, according to BC Transit.

“Integrating the systems together in one functional package is part of BC Transit’s regionalization strategy for contract management,” said BC Transit, in a statement. “This process will allow us to provide more consistent, sustainable service for the entire east Kootenay region moving forward.”

Fercho said the city is asking BC Transit for some internal resources that has been looking at things such as right-sizing buses or on-demand transit services.

Currently, transit costs are shared between the city and the province, with the city’s portion budgeted at $802,000 net of revenue for 2021. However, going forward, the city is only signing annual one-year contracts with the BC Transit’s operator as the service review process gets underway.

That review will include hiring a transit analyst who can help the city find and advocate for unique or custom-made solutions that meet the city’s needs.

“What is out there?” asked Fercho. “There’s lot of communities trying different things and changing how that service is provided, just like Uber disrupted how people moved before with paid-for transportation, there is other things going out there in the world for public transit.”

The review will also include looking at transit solutions from Cranbrook to Kimberley and the Canadian Rockies International Airport and involve the Ktunaxa Nation as well, Fercho added.

“How do we create that connectivity that works the best for the systems?” asked Fercho. “But if you’re going to have vehicles on the road, you want to make sure you have people in them and that they’re optimized in how they’re transporting people and so how do you best do that, is the question.”

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Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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