HandyDART is one of the bus services available in Revesltoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Politically Incorrect: Taking a look at Revelstoke’s empty buses

Tim Palmer

Special to the Review

“Free transit,” exclaimed Coun. Cody Younker, referring to city council’s election day gift.

“Even if you don’t need to use the bus, I encourage you to use it!

“We will be coming to you looking for feedback. Ride it now to figure out what you would like to see changed.”

I accepted Cody’s invitation.

Right now, I’m on the bus writing this opinion article. I feel a bit nauseous.

No, it is not a sick feeling from the swaying of the bus. And it is not from the copious amounts of diesel fumes spewed into the air — for me, the only passenger.

Other than lacking seat belts, the bus is quite comfortable.

Like the waste of a good meal from motion sickness, the city flushes transportation tax dollars down the toilet.

The transit system burns money through wasted fuel, in a daily routine of carrying mostly empty seats.

Today Revelstoke’s transit social, economic and environmental sensibility is thrown under the…um… you know where.

The transit system’s chassis is completely out of alignment with the council’s strategic plan — the promise to value these three pillars of sustainability.

However, there is hope for an overhaul based on discussions I had with Ingrid Bron, city councillor Nicole Cherlet, and BC Transit’s Chelsey Mossey.

These three individuals are committed to positive change through a transit service review now underway.

Repairing the Revelstoke transportation social disconnect

On average, at any given time, there will be one or no passengers on a bus. Don’t believe me? Take a look next time you see one around town.

The empty bus syndrome is not because there isn’t a need, it just doesn’t serve the requirements of most potential riders.

After the service review in 2011, an additional route was added to improve ridership.

Costs went up, taxes increased, ridership stayed much the same and inconvenience continued.

Cherlet, who attended a BC Transit workshop in Kamloops in June, notes, “If we can make it functional for everyone, then we are going to have that increased ridership.”

Compare the empty city buses with the packed winter ski buses.

City council needs to find an answer to Cherlet’s question: “How do we mesh this into one transportation system?”

Cherlet wants your input. “We need everybody at the table to effect this change.”

The traditional thinking of bus routes and scheduling does not serve people in communities like Revelstoke.

Big centres like Calgary and small communities like Grand Forks are implementing on-demand bus services and house to house curbside pickup and drop-off.

With today’s technology, there are plenty of options to integrate technology to serve people better.

With its diverse social and tourism needs, Revelstoke could become the model of public service and efficiency.

Reversing Revelstoke’s transit environmental destruction

Every year over 35,000 litres of fuel changes into greenhouse gases from Revelstoke virtually empty buses.

Last week, George Heyman, the minister of environment and climate change strategy, proudly announced new legislation that gives “better accountability, transparency and more detailed targets for climate action.”

Revelstoke’s transit review is an opportunity to replace this politically correct rhetoric and put climate action in the driver’s seat.

While careful with her words, Mossy, BC Transit’s manager of government relations, is open to possibilities of innovations.

Mossy pointed out that the city council’s direction and involvement are key.

She will bring public engagement draft terms of reference for the council’s input this winter.

There is lots of lip service to addressing climate change.

The BC Transit Service review is council’s opportunity to convert words into action. The effectiveness of public engagement will be the first test of that action.

Restoring Revelstoke’s transport economic delivery

Economic prudence, the third pillar of sustainability, is broken.

Currently, the round-trip cost via bus is over $44 ($22 each way). The operating cost for each bus is almost $80 per hour.

We are the second-worst community in cost recovery for tier three systems in the province.

The total cost for Revelstoke’s transit is over $600,000 per year. The province and the municipality share these costs.

The reality is 93 per cent comes from the taxpayer. Yes, that is from your wallet.

For Bron, director of community and economic development, she sees the potential to integrate Revelstoke’s two systems and will share these ideas to council — possibly next week.

Bron may have an uphill battle working with several bureaucratic systems, but with council’s support, good things can happen.

Perhaps the mayor and each councillor will take up the opportunity to ride the bus and engage with the riders.

Unfortunately, it may be a lonely ride for them, with few — if any — other riders to engage in conversation.

Unless they go during Welcome Week, Nov. 22-30. There should be more riders that week because once again council is providing “free” bus service.

Equipped with over 25 years in all aspects of municipal service, Tim Palmer is committed local government consultant helping towns and cities perform better.



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