Hope residents could see a new transit line linking the city to Chilliwack as early as May 2013. That’s if a proposed feasibility study shows a large enough demand for the service.
Hope Mayor Susan Johnston and Coun. Peter Robb got the opportunity to meet with B.C. Premier Christy Clark in September, during the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, and they had a two-item agenda in mind – transit and RCMP costs.
The lack of transit services has been an issue for years and Robb said it impacts both the quality of life for citizens and hampers Hope’s economic development.
“We felt that the UBCM was a good opportunity to talk transit,” he explained.
“We don’t have transit at all.”
While Greyhound still operates routes in the area and the volunteer run Care Transit helps seniors to travel, BC Transit is nonexistent.
“For seniors to go to medical appointments in Chilliwack. To do shopping that they can’t get here, like special shoes and things, that’s an issue. The economic side of it is getting workers to come here, where businesses are short of workers in certain areas. Getting to and from is the issue,” he said.
The last time Robb spoke to BC Transit he was told it would be at least “five to eight years” before they would consider putting transit in Hope.
“We found that unacceptable.”
But this time, the reaction was different.
Robb said BC Transit president Manuel Achadinha was more receptive to the idea of linking Hope to Chilliwack.
“He is committed to doing a feasibility study in November of this year. If the ridership is there and the community embraces it, we could see limited service starting in May of next year.”
Robb said there won’t be a direct run from Hope to Chilliwack, rather transit would likely connect the communities through Harrison and Agassiz. He’s hoping there would be a morning and evening run to allow people to come back and forth to work and maybe even a mid-day run for medical appointments.
But the public has to be supportive of the idea.
“All these people that say we need transit, they need to come out to these public meetings,” said Robb.
Public transit meetings have not yet been scheduled, but are expected to take place in November.
“We understand that there is going to be some cost involved, transit doesn’t fund itself and never does. We are going to have to get creative.”
That could include partnering with transit and the Fraser Valley Regional District to help fund it.
Mayor Johnston took the lead on the RCMP issue, asking the premier and Attorney General Sheila Bond, to help offset policing costs. Currently more than 25 per cent of Hope’s total budget goes to policing.
Johnston said while they were cordial and listened to her comments, no help was offered.
She pointed out that communities of 5,000 or less do not pay anything for RCMP services and that Hope was only 1,300 people over that mark. A sliding payment scale was also suggested, but rejected.
“We’re too small to be big and too big to be small,” said Johnston, adding they will have to keep trying to find other cost savings.