Transit in Golden

A letter to the editor about the transit situation in Golden.

I am shocked and disturbed by Council’s decision to terminate the Kicking Horse Community Bus. February 14, 2012 a representative from BC Transit, Kevin Schubert, attended an open council meeting to address the findings of the Kicking Horse Country Transit System Long-Range Plan Report.

The purpose of the KHCTS Report was to provide information that would assist in making improvements.  During the presentation to Council Mr. Schubert outlined various options and recommended changes that would improve the service significantly.  Instead of implementing the recommended changes Council disregarded the expert advice and cancelled the service.

The Town has made it sound as though transit is a financial burden to the tax payers which I do not believe is accurate. According to the Town’s Release the Annual System Cost for the entire transit service is $241,000.

BC Transit contributed $176,000  of this while the Town provided $53,000  and the Regional District supplied $65,000.    The purchase of two replacement buses would require an additional $30,000  annually.

More people are recognizing the economic, social and environmental benefits of transit than ever before and, as a result, there is funding available to help communities offset costs related thereto.  One source of such funding is the UBCM Public Transit/Gas Tax Fund.

In fact, “The GTF has already provided funding towards various projects that support reducing GHG emissions and energy consumption.  Improving public transit service is a high priority and the largest area of investment.”  The Town of Golden received $225,948 in public transit/gas tax funding last year and $122,980 the previous year.

Please also note the contribution BC Transit puts towards our transit system annually.

Cancelling the BC Transit service was equivalent to throwing away a $176,000  per year investment in our community.

We were very lucky to have transit services and while our community is cancelling service there are many other communities waiting to get it.

The Town has also made it sound as though no one is riding the community bus.

In actuality, according to the KHCTS Report there were aprox. 6,000 riders last year, an average of 25-31 per day (pgs 8 and 34).

This represents a 21.9 per cent year on year increase (pg 34). The final quarter showed the highest ridership since the service was implemented (pg 34).

With such promising results it seems odd that the service would then be cancelled, especially without exploring alternative options.

These results demonstrate there definitely was a market for the service.

The vast majority of transit systems have peak hours, even large well established services experience this.  Unlike larger systems, however, our system had the unique ability to adapt to meet community needs.

For example, our system could have provided handi-dart services in addition to conventional service.

These ridership results were achieved despite very little municipal support or promotion. Imagine what could have been accomplished with Municipal and Community input and support.

Transportation and public transit are included in, and referred to, throughout the Town of Golden Official Community Plan indicating that it is a priority to the people of Golden to have a public transit system now and into the future.

It is important for residents to recognize the value and limitless potential this system had for our community and what a huge loss it will be if it goes.

As a tax payer I would, at the very least, expect Council to implement the recommendations provided by experts and promote the service making every effort and giving it every opportunity to succeed prior to making the decision to terminate the service with very little or no public consultation.

After going through all of the effort and expense (feasibility studies, etc.) to get transit services in 2007 cancelling the service without due diligence seems irresponsible.

Transportation is an essential service.  Prematurely cutting a major service which had funding, citing budget as the determining factor, yet planning to spend $790,000 on beautification for the Bridge to Bridge project requiring residents to endure a 5 per cent increase in taxes seems ridiculous.

It would appear that Council has not only lost sight of what is important to the people they are supposed to be serving/ representing but also the realities of current economic conditions.

There is a petition to protest the hasty cancellation of transit and an Elector Response Form available to oppose the proposed Bridge to Bridge Project.  Let Council know this is a democracy and you will not accept shortsighted, unilateral decisions.

Ben Kuhle