Adding hours to bus service leaves council hesitant

City council wants more information before deciding whether to put as much as $265,881 towards enhancing the city's transit service.

As part of a long-term strategy, a proposal to add 4,000 hours was presented on Monday night, complete with two options for allocating the time - to split the time evenly between peak and off-peak hours and devote it all to peak hours.

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Splitting the time would require the addition of one bus and increase the cost by $190,851 per year while putting it all towards peak hours would mean three more buses and a hike of $265,881.

Staff and BC Transit recommended council endorse the more expensive of the two which would allow for express services along the high-use routes during peak times.

The price tag raised alarm bells for Coun. Terri McConnachie.

"I think we've got a lot on our plate right now, our dance card's pretty full," she said. "We're looking at some capital projects. I always, always, always start at yes and work my way backwards and I think I just hit a stumbling block at this time."

While McConnachie initially suggest it be brought back to council next year, she joined others in voting to refer the matter to the finance and audit committee to take a look at such possibilities as raising fares to offset the cost.

Coun. Murry Krause made it known he will oppose any move in that direction, noting that most of the ridership are people living on low incomes.

"I'll just let everyone know at the outset, I will not support any fee increases," he said. "If we can find another way to cover the cost, I'll be supportive of that but I think at this juncture it would just be the wrong thing to do."

Coun. Garth Frizzell, who chairs the finance and audit committee, said the hike amounts to as much as a quarter per cent increase in the property tax levy.

BC Transit needs council's decision by the end of this month to give it time to put in an order for the buses and submit the proposal to the provincial government for approval.

Council will also have until the end of the month to decide whether to spend as much as $40,331 to extend the operating hours provide by the custom or HandyDART service to match those of the conventional service.

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