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Posted: November 23, 2021

Council provided alternative transit delivery options

The City of Cranbrook is still trying to improve the costs and efficiencies in city transit operations.

City council last night received into public record a study presented by city staff and consultant Erin Toop, with WSP,  that included an evaluation of both the city’s current operational efficiency as well as the experience in other comparative communities.

On demand transit implementation was reviewed in various locations, including service analysis and high-level costs, a city Engineering and Development Services report outlined.

Key findings included concluding that some fixed routes in Cranbrook are certainly inefficient and have low ridership and could be replaced by ‘on-demand’ transit.

Two fixed routes in particular, Routes 1 and 5, are heavily used and should remain conventional, the study said.

City transit routes.

Route 1 includes stops at Cranbrook Mall, Tamarack Mall, the Super-Store/Walmart area and Joseph Creek Seniors’ Village. Route 5 runs from downtown past Western Financial Place, East Kootenay Regional Hospital to College of the Rockies.

The cost structure with BC Transit is such that delivery by alternative providers is unfeasible due to the high subsidization by the provincial government, the city staff report added.

City staff initially considered doing a review of the services provided by BC Transit In the fall of 2019.

“This was due to concerns over steadily increasing annual costs, perception of low ridership, and lack of responsiveness from BC Transit. In 2020 it was decided to hire a transit analyst to support staff in reviewing the effectiveness of BC Transit delivery and to consider alternative service models including ‘on-demand’ transit. Erin Toop with WSP was hired through the RFP process to undertake that work.”

Toop told council last night the study showed “transit use in Cranbrook has been declining since about 2011/2012. And despite that, there has been no real investigation into the cause of decline nor any major planning or service interventions because of that issue.

“There does seem to be a lack of city staff time regularly available to the transit portfolio compared to other Canadian jurisdictions that we reviewed. And so this was an opportunity that we saw for the city to consolidate the transit function into a focus transit coordinator role.”

On-demand transit has shown cost savings in other Canadian cities and “is an applicable model for Cranbrook.”

A recommendation from the report is the creation of a transit coordinator position on city staff to provide oversight of the system, which would be important if the city opted for an on-demand system.

The new position would also handle customer service matters and complaints and coordinate with BC Transit etc.

Coun. Mike Peabody asked how much control the city would have over routes and service “and if we have the ability to limit some of these routes or get rid of routes altogether without working directly with BC Transit?”

Toop noted it would be “a shared governance model” with joint decision making between the city and BC Transit.

City chief administrative officer Mark Fercho told council, “Between BC Transit and the city, really, this contract hasn’t had a lot of focus” but now both sides are “to start addressing that.”

Future steps will lead to a “great re-set with transit,” he said.

Going forward, city staff will work closely with BC Transit and their ongoing analysis of both the system in Cranbrook and ‘on-demand’ in general, to effect positive change, and to encourage ‘on demand’ where feasible.

Read the full report.

e-KNOW file photo



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