Public transit service to Red Mountain is on an uphill climb after cash cost considerations detailed in a recent report stalled the prospect of a service.
Called Service Options for Red Mountain Resort, 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, and the question of cost will be considered in a debate that could begin next month.
“I’m not sure how viable it is financially,” she said.
The situation at RMR is unique, said Wallace. 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. There were shuttle services offered between Rossland and RMR by private companies for a fee.
“The lack of regularly scheduled trips and infrequency of service appears to make these trips unreliable,” the report read.
One of the providers of the public shuttle service last year, Tourism Rossland (TR), will be sending a letter to City council and BC Transit asking them to get behind establishing a service to the area.
“We don’t think it accurately reflects the situation,” said Deanne Steven, Tourism Rossland executive director. “This is a priority not just for tourism but for the entire community. We need to figure out a permanent solution for transit in that neighbourhood.”
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 public 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.
“We are never going to make money on this bus, the point is to reduce greenhouse gases, to provide a good service for locals and visitors and staff,” said Steven.
It’s not just for Red Mountain, said Steven, but it is for the entire neighbourhood at the base of the hill, which is 25 per cent of the tax base.
Currently, TR is working on securing funding for a service next year that will run seven days per week, every half hour, between downtown and the ski hill during daytime hours (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
“We’re going to lead by example and show that we can do this, and show that it gets used a lot,” Steven said. “We will be the change we want to be.”
For any destination business, having transportation into your town is vital, said Nicole Briggs, events and marketing coordinator at Red Mountain. All major ski hills have transportation that brings guests to the town and up to the hill.
“It would mean the world to us to have that transit set up,” she said. “I think, overall, it is a priority in everyone’s mind.”
As well as for the around 200 staff members at Red Mountain. Briggs aaid the resort would look at contributing to the public service if one was to be set up.
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.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) requested a summary and analysis of options to provide increased service to RMR with cost estimates based on a cost per service hour supported by benefits and considerations.
The report presented three service options, including service expansion with community bus, reallocation of existing resources within the Kootenay Boundary fleet, and RMR taking advantage of the existing 13 conventional service trips to Rossland.
The service options presented estimated costs with an eye toward improving the frequency of service to RMR, accommodate employees and visitors of the resort, and utilize existing resources and service hours.
The report recommended service option one as being able to provide “the greatest opportunity to grow seasonal ridership without impacting year round commuters or adding additional demand on an aging fleet in a difficult topography.”
Although the report was delivered to KBTS stakeholders—through the EES—and the WKTC, the onus is on the City of Rossland to see if there is a will to find a financial way to create public service.
“If there is some desire to get into that service, at that point I would take it back to the East End,” said Wallace. “It’s not an easy decision because there is so much cost involved.”
With the formation of the WKTC in 2012—between Nelson and the regional districts of Kootenay Boundary (including Rossland) and Central Kootenay—a transit decision must now pass through it, as well as the KBTS stakeholders.
And when the committee adopted the West Kootenay Concept Plan as its guide for expansion hours secured from the province, RMR was not identified as a priority in the adopted plan.
As a result, service to RMR would have to be provided within the existing service hours by agreement of the KBTS stakeholders or be agreed to by the WKTC as a high priority.
BC Transit is now awaiting direction from either KBTS stakeholders or the WKTC to pursue potential next steps.
Service option 1: service expansion with community bus
This requires expansion to supplement the existing service provided to the resort and the purchase of an additional vehicle (community bus) seating up to 20 passengers.
Additional annual operating costs, as well as maintenance costs, assumes the existing Kootenay Boundary fleet will serve as a spare for the system.
From a capital perspective, this seasonal option is expensive since it requires paying for a full year of lease fees for a vehicle that is only used four months per year.
Service hours: 790
Passenger revenue: $8,100
Annual ridership: 8,000
Total cost: $121,000
Vehicles required: 1
Net local share of costs: $56,900
Provincial share of costs: $56,000
Note: estimates assume 10 rides per service hour at an average fare of $1.02 (from 12/13 budget).
Service option 2: reallocation of existing resources
This option focuses on what could be done to improve service to RMR within the existing available fleet. The option would:
• extend route 6 (Rossland) from Rossland to RMR on weekdays four times a day during the ski season. Two trips would be provided in the morning to serve employees and skiers as well as two in the late afternoon.
• require the reallocation of hours and rescheduling of other routes for peak commute times during the ski season.
This option negatively impacts peak service to regular commuters, such as students, to provide a seasonal service for visitors and seasonal workers.
The other main disadvantage to implementing seasonal service through reallocation of existing service is that it creates inconsistency and inefficiency in the rest of the schedule, particularly at commuter times.
Service hours: 0
Passenger revenue: $2,250*
Annual ridership: 1,500*
Total cost: $0**
Vehicles required: 0
Net local share of costs: ($2,250)* **
Provincial share of costs: $0**
* Based on five passengers per trip at an average fare of $1.50.
** May require further cuts to existing service in order to retain its cost neutral nature.
Service option 3: no additional public transit service to RMR
This service option proposes RMR provide shuttle service between Rossland and the resort, taking advantage of the existing 13 conventional trips to Rossland.
As there is already some shuttle service existing, it may only require a more formal arrangement between the resort and the private providers.
Requires co-operation with and investment by RMR to provide shuttle service either in-house or by contract which could lead to unreliable service.
Service hours: 0
Passenger revenue: $8,580
Annual ridership: 5,720
Total cost: $0
Vehicles required: 0
Net local share of costs: ($8,580)
Provincial share of costs: $0
Note: Based on five passengers per trip at an average fare of $1.50.
Source: Service Options for Red Mountain Resort