Greyhound might be cutting back on its bus service to the North Thompson Valley but local governments are stepping up to fill the gap.
During their July 18 board meeting Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors approved using an alternative approval process to decide about paying for the Valley Connector transit service.
“We’re going to the alternative approval process to see if taxpayers want to continue the service or not,” said Tim Pennell, TNRD director for Wells Gray Country (Area A). “It’s an important social service, especially with the cuts by Greyhound.”
The Valley Connector provides one day a week bus service from Vavenby to Kamloops and back.
Once a month the bus extends its trip to go from Blue River and back.
Fares are kept low, in the $5 to $7.50 range.
Users must book a place in advance on the 20-passenger bus.
In 2011 the town councils in Clearwater and Barriere, plus the TNRD board of directors, approved a pilot one day per week transit service from Vavenby to Kamloops, with money coming from federal Gas Tax revenues.
The service continued through 2012 using discretionary economic development funds.
However, with the service’s continued success, the need was identified for more permanent funding.
A trial started last winter to extend the Valley Connector once a month to and from Blue River met with a good response.
Public meetings were held in mid-May in Blue River, Clearwater and Barriere to discuss the proposed service. No negative feedback was heard.
Under an alternative approval process, the electors are deemed to have approved a proposal unless 10 per cent of the electors sign a response form indicating they do not want the local government to proceed.
Deadline to submit response forms will be by Sept. 9.
The process is an alternative to, for example, holding a referendum on the question.
TNRD staff estimated that the number of electors in the areas affected to be 4,814, which means that 482 names would be needed to prevent adoption of the bylaw.
The areas affected would be Thompson Headwaters (Area B), Wells Gray Country (Area A), District of Clearwater, Lower North Thompson (Area O), and District of Barriere.
“The whole North Thompson is working together on this, which makes it affordable,” Pennell said.
The bylaw would allow for taxation to pay for the transit service on properties in Area B up to a maximum of 5.7 cents per $1,000 valuation, and up to 6.8 cents for electoral areas A and O, and for the districts of Clearwater and Barriere.
BC Transit makes a significant contribution to supporting the Valley Connector, Pennell noted.
Also on July 18, the TNRD board approved $4,500 in federal Gas Tax- Community Works Fund expenditures allocated to Area A (Wells Gray Country), and $3,500 allocated to Area 0 (Lower North Thompson) be approved to service debt associated with the transit service from Vavenby to Kamloops.
Helping to pay down the capital costs associated with the transit service will free up more money for operating the Valley Connector, Pennell said.
Greyhound ended its daytime bus service through the North Thompson Valley on Mar. 1 of this year.