In order to support growth of the Kootenay Lake West Transit Service it will cost taxpayers up to five per cent more to operate over the next five years, after the Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors approved an amendment to transit delivery Sept. 23.
An increase in ridership and the demand for more services precipitated the increase, the board learned during the (Zoom) meeting through a report from RDCK staff.
The decision “ensures the sustainability of public transit in the region, affords the board options in the Transit Future Services Plan, allows for the ability to extend or add routes and addresses contract increases with NextGen Transit taking over as the new operating partner.”
As a result, the new legislation would increase the maximum annual allowable requisition — the total dollar sum the RDCK can tax residents, including Nelsonites — from $350,000 (a rate of $0.048 per $1,000 of the net taxable value of land and improvements) up to $678,000 ($0.066 per $1,000).
In 2021 the lower rate was able to fund the transit service at a cost recovery rate.
“(B)ut beyond the current fiscal year the financial requirements of the service will exceed the current requisition maximum,” noted RDCK research analyst Tom Dool in his report to the board.
That rate was established in April 2014 to fund operations of the service — which had just been established. But those rates of 2014 did not keep pace with an increase in ridership, which jumped by 60 per cent in that time, to nearly one million rides per year.
The increase prompted the development of the West Kootenay Transit Future Service Plan (WKTFSP) — in conjunction with BC Transit — providing options to allow expansion of the service over the next 10 years.
It also allowed the board to bump the allowable annual requisition — the local government share of annual operating costs — to cover BC Transit’s cancellation of the operating contract with Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services, and the award of a new contract to NextGen Transit.
In his report Dool said it was expected that the proposed lift would result in a 17 per cent ($79,092) increase in 2022 and an additional three per cent ($16,556) in 2023.
There will be no service level changes next year, which would allow the RDCK board to consider how to apportion the costs.
West Kootenay future service plan fixes
The extra financing would allow several changes to occur to transit, including a weekday Route 10 trip from the rural community of Six Mile to Balfour, proceeding in 2022 and being implemented in 2023.
Dool noted in his report that two additional round trips on the Kootenay Connector 99 could be considered for the college dependent service. It was predicted that demand for transportation by college students and staff could drive the need for expansion.
“Initiation in 2023 and implementation in 2024 and 2025 would allow time for an improved understanding of what on campus student numbers will look like and further engagement with the college and students regarding public transit,” Dool wrote.