Back on the bus

Several prominent business people voiced their concern over the lack of public transit to Red Mountain Resort.

Several prominent business people are voicing their concern over the lack of public transit to Red Mountain Resort and threw their support behind a Tourism Rossland initiative to offer regular free service to the hill in the winter.

Six people representing Red Mountain, the Prestige and the Flying Steamshovel stood up Monday night and told city council a regular free service to the hill in the winter was essential to grow the city’s economy.

Led by Tourism Rossland’s Deanne Steven, the group urged council to consider a request for a partnership that will come June 24 in the next council meeting. Already Tourism Rossland (TR) has assembled around $35,000 in support from several city organizations and businesses for the service, said Steven, but they are working on getting more partners involved.

Time was of the essence to get the service into place well before the ski season, said Steven, since Red Mountain and other tourism providers are selling ski packages now, the busiest booking season for the winter holidays.

The board of Tourism Rossland will be presenting the city with two options for a service partnership to consider at its next meeting.

“This economic development project we believe will have an immediate impact on tourism revenues in Rossland,” Steven said.

It would have an immediate impact on the ability of the Flying Steamshovel to grow their room revenue over the next few years, said inn manager Chris Bowman.

“When we get phone calls to book our rooms, the first question we get is how do we get up to the ski hill while we are there? I’ve driven people myself on many occasions, but (the bus) is very important to us to grow our business in the future,” he said.

Booking agent Matt Adams of Red Mountain Resort Lodging said he knows of 20 different ski groups booking up to 60 people each right now, but the number one question is how do they get into Rossland.

“So if they want to go shopping on an off day or to a group dinner, we currently don’t have any way to accommodate that. A lot of these sales hinge on us finding a way to provide that,” he said.

Public transit service to Red Mountain was stalled after cash cost considerations detailed in a report— Service Options for Red Mountain Resort—last month questioned how viable a public service to the hill was.

The report delivered by BC Transit to the East End Services (EES) committee and the West Kootenay Transit committee (WKTC)—the local governing bodies overseeing and contributing to the service—looked at the question of extending public transit to an area that was in need of service for only four months of the year.

And it found that the best option available was to expand the Kootenay Boundary Transit service with the purchase of a community bus, a solution that could cost over $120,000, with local shares in the cost totalling $56,900.

Public transit to Red Mountain Resort (RMR) has been a want coming out of Rossland for a number of years, said the city’s regional district director Kathy Wallace.

The situation at RMR is unique. There are no staff accommodations at the resort, meaning all employees must commute. In the winter, the resort operates from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., meaning ideal arrive times for bus service at RMR would be between 8-8:30 a.m., and the ideal leave time would be 3:45 p.m.

However, these times also pose a challenge within the existing regional fleet since Kootenay Boundary Transit System’s (KBTS) service delivery peak is 7-9 a.m. and 2:30-4 p.m.

Last year, with funding from the Resort Municipality Initiative, TR set up a partnership with Red Mountain Academies to offer a limited service to the hill for the first time. They had 780 trips, with around 22 riders per day based on three round trips.

The service itself cost TR around $14,000, and it was contracted out to a Trail-based company. They made around $400 in fares, but hope to offer it as a free service next year.

Once funds are secured for the bus service, said Steven, a contract will be put for request for proposals to offer the service.

The KBTS currently provides service to RMR during the ski season on weekends, statutory and school holidays since it does not impact its peak fleet service times. The service provides two trips per day with one morning trip arriving at 8:30 a.m. and one late afternoon trip leaving at 3:45 p.m.