by Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on Wednesday Mar 01 2023
The city needs to step up and advocate for better transit not only in Nelson but for the creation of a province-wide electric transit network, says the representative of a newly-formed transit coalition.
Keith Wiley of the Nelson and Area Action Group for Better Public Transportation admitted transit service delivery — both locally and throughout the province — was a very “rough” job, but it was an essential one worth fighting to improve.
Through the public portion of the Feb. 28 committee-of-the-whole meeting, Wiley said municipal governments like Nelson needed to tackle the problem and begin lobbying for improvement and funding from the province.
“We think better public transit and better public transportation is the answer … so we want to work with you, support you to … advocate strongly for better public transportation,” he said.
The objective of the group was to encourage local governments to “place a high priority on reducing transportation climate emissions by dramatically increasing public transit services,” the group’s website explained (https://nelsonpublictransitaction.ca/).
“Boosting electrified public transit not only reduces emissions, it also can impact affordability for many and create much more equitable access to travel.”
Wiley said there were a lot of people in B.C., particularly in rural B.C., who could not get around very well and needed better transit, as well as inter-provincial transit.
“There are a large number of people, whether for physical or general reasons, or financial, can’t drive,” he told council.
The group has five points it wishes to target, said Wiley, starting with the electrification of all buses.
“Over half of the buses being built now in the world are electric; we want them,” he said.
Another major concern is the lack of reliable transportation for health services, Wiley explained.
“It’s an old saw but the people really need a direct bus from Nelson to the Trail hospital that doesn’t have two stops, two transfers and sometimes missed connections,” he said. “For older people who are maybe not well, it just doesn’t work.”
The third is to consider an on-demand bus in Nelson, like the Handi-dart one, but with expanded service. Wiley said the fourth one was the creation of Sunday transit service.
“It is really needed. It is expensive. Maybe that is where the on-demand bus could start,” said Wiley. “Leaving people high and dry on Sundays is not very good.”
The fifth point would be to urge the city to put pressure on the provincial government for the establishment of a province-wide public bus network.
Towards that end, Wiley said the group wanted to meet with the city to flesh out strategies for bringing the issues to the provincial government and how a long-term plan can really expand transit both as a climate and social justice initiative.
The group has started an online petition (https://nelsonpublictransitaction.ca/take-action/) to be sent to Nelson city council and regional district directors to ask them to advocate for transit improvements.