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Public Transport Ridership Down in Castlegar

The Present Public Transport Network

One bus

That’s all this city has, one bus.

One 35 foot bus. Two routes, (click for map), and about three passengers it seems.

Castlegar has a very distributed residential population, and as such, smarter planning of bus routes, bus types and appropriate levels of service and waits is necessary. As I say often enough, Castlegar is not alone in problems like this, but it is big enough to know better than to accept this from the provincial government, who provides much of the funding for public transport.

In today’s local newspaper, reports of a study being undertaken to improve the service and rebuild ridership, which I think is an excellent initiative…

Castlegar News – Local Transit Strives to Provide Better Service

B.C. Transit will be looking at alternative solutions, and is considering adding another bus, simplifying the current route and possibly adding a Saturday service. “The system is going to be looked at. It takes a long time for somebody to go from one end of town to another,” said Marshall. “We can’t cut back anymore, that’s partly why the system isn’t growing anymore,” he added. (emphasis mine)

Hang on, cutting back? Why on earth would they be looking to cut things back!?! The problem surely is being caused by the cut backs. With the price of gas vs rising housing costs, people need options for transport that meet their needs. As new land is developed, houses are typically being built further from the commercial zones, and the service becomes more unwieldy the further out you go. Read more after the jump….

A Typical Daily Trip

For interest’s sake, and well, I am interested, because our family is a dedicated one car family, I’ve gone through the exercise of working out travel times for different areas of the city to my work. There is a bus stop right outside my workplace, but the travel times from various parts of the city, particularly those that are far enough away to make public transport worthwhile, are simply ridiculous. From one house we looked at buying, a distance of about 4km to work along Columbia Avenue, the bus trip in the morning would take 26 minutes. That is a net speed of 9km/h, about 5.5 miles an hour!

This is not a joke, the single bus makes a detour across the Columbia River to Selkirk College, then back across the same bridge, and back onto Columbia Avenue. Over 20 minutes to travel 4 kilometers.

The Future of Rural Public Transport

[ad#200-left]The article talks about options for another bus, and even including a Saturday Schedule, but to me, the answer is pretty straight forward. Run a totally distributed system. Small minivan type buses, which can be called up or rerouted when there are too many passengers at a bus stop. The technology is surely available now, GPS, GIS, statistical analysis, CCTV of bus stops to monitor waiting passenger numbers.

The city is investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in wireless internet networking. This system could piggyback off that, and run at low cost. Or how about you call a number or SMS before you leave home or work to say, “I’ll be waiting at stop number 25”.

Would a more taxi like service fly in this area? I think so, as long as the prices were not taxi like. I’m hoping something will get sorted out soon, there are a  couple of hundred lots to be developed in the south end of town over the next couple of years. Many of these will be  occupied by elderly people who don’t want to drive everyday. Neither will they want a 40 minute bus ride each way to do their groceries.

If the City of Castlegar, BC Transit, or the Regional District of Central Kootenay would like my input, they can call me or leave a message on my contact page, I’m happy to meet, discuss and help find solutions. Public transport is supposed to be for everyone, it should be affordable and efficient, we just need to think outside of the box.


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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

8 thoughts on “Public Transport Ridership Down in Castlegar

  1. I use the one bus service regularly to get from my house (bus stop short distance away) and get door to door delivery to my workplace in Robson. I never received such personalized service in the city. I also know the bus driver personally as well as some of the regular passengers. Small town, one bus service does have some redeeming features.

  2. When our one bus was implimented some years ago I suggested running the one bus up and down Columbia Avenue from Robson Ferry to the end of Castlegar with no deviations.
    Before that was nothing, so everyone had to find a way to get to the main street anyway so it would have been an improvement.
    I also had a suggestion that could make it almost free to riders and that was by presenting one’s ticket to a business for a discount on purchases. The businesses would have more customers, the bus would take more money, and the customers would get their money back.
    And if the one bus was travelling up and down Columbia Avenue many times a day then it would get more use. That would be one small step to make more use of the one bus.
    This suggestion was at the outset of the programme, so of course it would upset people now who have fashioned their lives around our inedequate bus system.

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