Transit pilot project needs provincial support

A pilot project proposal for regional transportation in Hope is seeking additional support from the FVRD to 'unfreeze' provincial funding

A recommendation was made at a meeting held on Tuesday Feb. 9 in council chambers at District Hall, that council request the FVRD Board to champion the province to allocate its share of transit funding to a pilot project that would establish a regional transit system connecting the District of Hope with Agassiz.

The District of Hope identified a need for public transit going back to 2011, when communications began with BC Transit and the FVRD to explore the possibility of providing regional transit to Hope.

A fast-tracked study resulted in potential options to utilize the Highway 7 corridor between Chilliwack and Hope. An open house occurred as part of the study and the findings were presented to council on May 14, 2012.

Further studies were conducted, and reports drafted included the final report released by BC Transit on July 21, 2013, which served as the foundation for the FVRD to explore potential partnerships with regional stakeholders, including First Nations. At that time it was determined that multiple partners were interested in participating in the establishment of affordable transit.

An appealing level of expense was presented to the District with a service area providing adequate transportation between Hope and Agassiz. The projected cost to the District at the time of the final report was $26, 467. This option proved to be palatable at the time.

With the BC Transit Final Report on the table and the CAO’s recommendation for council’s approval, continued negotiations occurred at the regional/provincial level.

The arrival of a new council in 2015, saw the revitalization of the idea. A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was agreed upon which was to involve Care Transit and other stakeholders, initiating a partnership between BC Transit, the FVRD and the District towards creating a pilot project, which was thought to be a more attractive option to the province at the time of its conception.

Since that time the projected cost to the District which averaged somewhere between $24, 467 and $34, 936 was lost with the failed interest from stakeholders, and the province who declared that no funding was available within its 2015 Provincial Three Year Budget.

This left Hope on its own to absorb a total of $299,800 should council decide to fund the entire amount.

Option was also given to council to put political pressure on the Provincial Ministry of Transit and/or cabinet.

Tuesday’s meeting resulted in the endorsement of staff to bring the FVRD on board to push the province to unfreeze its provincial share of transit funding.

Staff is currently setting up a meeting with Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness to discuss the project at length.

“At this time council feels that establishing a regional transit system between Hope and Agassiz would help promote economic growth, while improving the quality of life for the residents of Hope,” said Mayor Wilfried Vicktor. “A pilot project such as this would provide the gateway for a future of regional transit to Hope.”