The West Kootenay Transit Board could be a template for regional transit authorities in the future.

Communities get more say on BC Transit

The B.C. government will ask local communities to nominate directors for the BC Transit board.

The B.C. government will ask local communities to nominate directors for the BC Transit board, in an effort to improve communication on bus service changes and expansions.

Transportation Minister Mary Polak announced Tuesday that communities will also have the option of setting up regional transit commissions, similar to the one in place in Greater Victoria.

The recommendations follow a review of BC Transit administration, sparked by complaints that the provincial agency was arbitrarily changing service and costs after municipal budgets were set.

“We are also making sure that BC Transit provides sufficient notice to local governments of any service adjustments, along with the type of information local governments need to make timely budget decisions,” Polak said.

Joe Stanhope, chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo, praised the review and BC Transit’s efforts to give communities more say. It was Stanhope’s complaints about a doubling of management fees and the proposed withdrawal of new buses from the Nanaimo service that provoked the review.

BC Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha said there has already been progress on new regional transit authorities. The Kootenay region has nine different bus systems, but has established a committee that could lead to a regional service. The provincial review identified the Okanagan and Central Fraser Valley as other areas that should consider amalgamating.

The ministry will develop a policy for intercity transit routes that will focus on shorter trips and timing for commuters, Polak said, while leaving longer bus service to Greyhound and other private bus lines.

Polak said the municipalities in the Greater Victoria Transit Commission remain split on whether they should transfer their service to the Capital Regional District. The government will extend their ability to nominate commission members, which are now restricted to mayors of key communities.