A Kamloops city councillor continues to push for improvements to the city’s HandyDart system.
Amidst budget and council discussion on Tuesday around transit hours and the city’s operating agreement with BC Transit, Coun. Sadie Hunter pushed for more hours for custom transit, which is the city’s HandyDart service.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, city buses have been operating at a reduced schedule due to more people working from home, university students taking courses online, concerns from the public over safety in hopping onboard and physical distancing rules in place.
In 2020, ridership levels dropped by between 45 per cent and 65 per cent.
Meanwhile, the city’s transportation engineer, Purvez Irani, told council on Tuesday hours were not cut to the city’s HandyDart service in 2020. The city’s HandyDart service was oversubscribed prior to the pandemic, he said.
However, in keeping service levels the same and with fewer people hopping onboard, the city was able to keep up with demand.
“Information from BC Transit suggests we are able to meet the demand right now for custom,” Irani said.
Hunter’s concern, however, is looking forward. Hunter questioned what happens when ridership levels return to normal.
“We won’t be able to meet an over-subscribed service in the years to come,” she said.
The city’s development director, Marvin Kwiatkowski, said council will be asked to deliberate transit expansion next month, as part of supplemental items to be decided upon during budget talks. Included in that, he said, is a proposed expansion of custom transit.
A report on the business case for the transit expansion notes the custom transit expansion proposed is expected to cost the city $7,500 in 2021 and $22,700 in 2022.
The proposed conventional transit expansion, meanwhile, would equate to $75,000 for the city in 2021 and $225,000 in 2022. The total cost over two years of expansion would be $638,000 and the city’s share would be $247,700. If approved, it would result in a .07 per cent increase for Kamloops residents’ property taxes in 2021 and a .14 per cent increase in 2022.
Another concern raised by Hunter is a lack of HandyDart service on statutory holidays. The city’s development director said something is also expected to come forward on that matter in the future.
The city has 18 HandyDart vehicles.