qathet Regional District’s (qRD) committee of the whole is recommending the regional district consider signing a three-year transit expansion initiatives letter and reaffirm its commitment to service expansion to Texada Island in the 2022 operating year.
At the September 9 committee of the whole meeting, Electoral Area D director and committee chair Sandy McCormick said she had a couple of questions about the proposed agreement with BC Transit. The first was about the cost.
“It seems rather high,” said McCormick. “It’s not that I’m not in favour of more transportation for Texada. Am I reading it correctly that it’s going to be $60,000? It seems really ridiculous.”
McCormick said because the deadline of September 30 to sign the agreement is coming soon, she asked whether there was time to get some details from BC Transit prior to adopting the expansion initiative.
Chief administrative officer Al Radke said he could reach out and get some clarity regarding the money for the expansion.
McCormick said with the annual estimated cost of $61,620, she asked if the additional money would be paid for by all residents of the region or provincially.
“Who pays that $61,000?” asked McCormick.
Manager of financial services Linda Greenan said the portion that the regional district would pay is $35,237 per annum. She said the province would pick up the difference.
Manager of operational services Patrick Devereaux said he could explain why the $35,237 was there.
“The Texada expansion requires the purchase of another bus,” said Devereaux. “Expansion of the Texada route requires expansion of the fleet as well, so that’s why there’s this big increase.”
McCormick asked if this was a one-time cost or an annual cost.
Greenan said this will be an annual cost, which is amortized over the use of that bus.
Cost shocks director
Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said he was shocked by the numbers being discussed. He said there was annual revenue of $834 versus the expenditure by the regional district of $35,000.
“I did the math and that works out to an awful lot of money from the qRD for each fare,” said Brander. “I’m a big believer in public transportation but I think I’d like to have some statistics about ridership and how they see this might benefit because to go from one day to two days per week, but increase it by $35,000, is pretty pricey if you ask me.”
Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he had similar concerns about the big jump in cost. He said it reminded him of a time when he lived on Gabriola Island when the regional district was faced with a big increase in costs to get public transit. He said he understands the regional district chose not to provide public transit on Gabriola Island. Instead, the island chose to go with their own bus, he said.
“If this price tag seems too high, maybe we should reach out to the director of Gabriola’s system and find out more details,” said Gisborne.
City director George Doubt said he didn’t find the estimated annual cost to the regional district to be surprising. He said when a scheduled bus service is being provided for a low population, the cost per ride is going to be higher.
“This board has been asking for the increased service with the recognition that the public transit can deal with some social needs and help people move around the area and get their business done without relying on a personal automobile,” said Doubt. “It has some environmental impact in that people can take a shared ride instead of using their own vehicle.
“BC Transit is paying a significant part of the cost. It makes a lot of sense to me and BC Transit is responding to what we asked for.”
City director CaroleAnn Leishman said she concurs with Doubt.
“This is something we’ve been asking for and the constituents have been asking for improving transit,” said Leishman. “There’s money involved to be invested in improving transit. It’s like, build it and they will ride. If we improve the system, we’ll get people out of vehicles. I’m in support of this initiative.”
McCormick said with one-day-a-week service, people try to cram all their appointments into Thursdays.
“Having a second day of the week would make things a lot easier for people and encourage more people to use the bus,” said McCormick. “I can see there is a real benefit to the community of having this. I was a little concerned about the price tag and I still am, but I’m swayed by some of the arguments that have been put forward.”
McCormick said she wouldn’t mind the opportunity to poll some people on Texada Island to see how many people are in favour and would use the expanded service.
The committee referred the matter to the regional board meeting for consideration, with Brander opposed.