The City of Kamloops is looking forward to having more say in the way B.C. Transit provides its bus service.
An independent review panel this week said B.C. Transit is more accountable to provincial politicians than to the municipalities where it operates, and doesn't listen enough to local concerns.
The panel made 18 recommendations for change on the way the province's transit system is administered in the 58 communities it serves.
City councillors are welcoming those suggestions with hope they'll address the frustrations they've had with the Crown agency, according to Coun. Ken Christian.
"Some of things I've seen is this year as an example, we were given 5,500 additional transit hours, which we had to co-fund but they gave them to us at the 11th hour of our budget setting exercise so really that put us in a bit of a tizzy."
Christian said he looks forward to the City's transit system becoming truly co-governed rather than having B.C. Transit report on decisions, then offering municipalities the choice to opt in or not.
"If this is truly going to be a co-governance model than we're going to have to be informed of the types of decisions that need to be made far upstream," he said.
Christian said he feels confident that Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom's conclusions, which he intends to deliver in September during the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual general meeting, will support the independent review panel's recommendations.
The fact that Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar is now on the B.C. Transit board of directors will also help, he said. Milobar did not return requests for comment.
"I think he'll be quite influential in terms of articulating the desires of not just Kamloops but municipalities of our size," said Christian.
Part of the reason for B.C. Transit's disregard for local municipalities is the relatively minor funding role they play.
"B.C. Transit's governance and decision making model does not recognize local government as a significant funding partner," the report said. "As a result, local governments have little direct influence on many of the issues that impact the cost of delivering public transit in their community."
B.C. Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha said the governance model is legislated by the B.C. Transit Act.
"The act sets out the rules that we must operate within. Any change to governance is the responsibility of government," said Achadinha.
However Achadinha has floated an innovative new funding formula to a handful of communities, including Kamloops. His community pass proposal would result in a transferable bus pass for every household in exchange for rolling the costs into property taxes.
"We're essentially waiting for a community to pick it up as a pilot," said Meribeth Burton, B.C. Transit spokesperson.
But as far as Christian is concerned, that idea is a non-starter because Kamloops is not big enough.
Although ridership is healthy in the City, it's not like Vancouver where "everybody" rides the bus, he said.
"There are going to be people in Kamloops that aren't going to use it. So to simply sort of force them onto a bus or induce them onto a bus I don't think is really good use of tax dollars."
Instead, said Christian, authorities should look at ways to reduce waiting times, arrange schedules to accommodate frequent users, create efficiencies by investigating mid-sized transportation vehicles and make the Handy Dart service more accessible.