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Cranbrook council hopes for smaller buses in future

A report to renew the annual operating agreement for Cranbrook's transit systems once again fired up conversation among mayor and council in the Monday, April 28 meeting.

Council went with city staff, who recommended the 2014/2015 annual operating agreement for Cranbrook's conventional and custom transit systems be approved, but not before some discussion around ridership and the costs associated with the system.

Mayor Wayne Stetski said one of the issues the city faces when looking at the buses is  on 15-year leases that expire in 2019. Stetski said he has had some discussions with BC Transit on the issue.

"The discussion that I had with them most recently was encouraging them to find ways to get us smaller buses before 2019," Stetski said. "The best they're able to offer at this point is 2016."

Stetski said that would be accomplished by doing a bus trade with communities that have smaller buses but are in need of the larger buses.

The City’s net municipal share of the 2014 transit budget is projected at $627,550, while BC Transit’s net municipal share is projected at $628,629 is based on April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. Operating costs for are shared between the city and BC Transit. For conventional (transit bus operation), the city contributes 53 per cent and BC Transit 47 per cent. For custom service (charters, etc), BC Transit covers 66 per cent of the costs, while the city takes up the remaining third. The city’s costs are also offset by any revenue generated by the transit service.

Coun. Denise Pallesen said Cranbrook needs to get more riders on its buses, as well as smaller buses.

“I went to the transit workshop a few weeks ago in Kelowna,” Pallesen said. “I had a chat with Manuel (Achadinha), the CEO of BC Transit. I told him that we are really struggling with this and we need to get some smaller buses.”

Achadinha told her that there are a lot of municipalities in B.C. in the same position, so they are trying to work on an equalization program which would make the cost for buses the same across the province.

“Everybody in British Columbia, other than the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Vancouver Island, are having the same issues as we are,” Pallesen said.

Pallesen also said that in Cranbrook ridership has increased and there is a projected forecast of 220,000 riders with conventional and custom transit for 2014-15.

“Although it looks like we aren’t using our buses, we are using our buses,” Pallesen said.

Coun. Gerry Warner said that rather than tweaking, the transit system needs to be restructured.

“After 10 years of operation we know what buses are being used and we know who is using them, we know what routes are being used,” Warner said. “The main customers are students and seniors and they stick to certain routes.”

Warner said the city should cater to those routes and use smaller buses on those less used routes.

“We can do better I’m sure,” Warner said.

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