Sicamous council will be forming a committee to weigh the costs and benefits of public transit options offered in a BC Transit feasibility study.
The study, discussed at the recent district committee of the whole meeting, was conducted through the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and looks at the provision of transit options connecting Salmon Arm with Sicamous, Malakwa and Swansea Point. It offers five options which include contracting the service through a third party based in Sicamous or Salmon Arm, as well as the provision of a midday service, one day a week between Sicamous and Salmon Arm. An option for a weekday service is also included.
A supplementary option would tie Malakwa into the one-day-a-week option. It is estimated this would cost local taxpayers $31,200, with the province picking up $34,600 of the total cost. The one-day service between Sicamous and Salmon Arm would cost Sicamous taxpayers $29,200. The weekday service, providing two one-way trips Monday through Friday, would cost $106,000, $47,000 of which would be funded through local taxation.
Coun. Fred Busch said council discussed the provision of public transit 10 to 15 years ago, but turned it down as taxpayers didn’t want to pay, arguing a transit system should be self-sufficient. He noted the feasibility study revolves around a system that will require taxation for Sicamous and possibly Electoral Area E (Rural Sicamous-Malakwa).
“I hope that we don’t just table it and say let’s forget it because I think this is something that the whole community is involved in to a large extent,” said Busch, “and I think, as somebody who is perhaps faced with the fact that I will not be able to drive, I don’t know, maybe next year, maybe 50 years, it certainly is something I personally will be faced with and I think this is probably how it is with a lot of people in Sicamous.”
Coun. Don Richardson said that even if the district partnered with the CSRD to provide transit, it would still be a cost burden and that the benefits would be questionable.
In response, Mayor Darrell Trouton said the benefit would be great for people who use it, but noted the system would be heavily subsidized by the taxpayer.
“We do need it, in certain areas it would be great. Just like a lot of things,” said Trouton. “But can we afford it at this point in time? Our community is declining, not increasing at this time, and we’re faced with a lot of other burdens.”
Coun. Terry Rysze said he was torn, noting how a public transit system would be of great benefit to the elderly in the community. He suggested the matter should go to referendum.
CSRD Area E director Rhona Martin was also given an opportunity to speak to the study. She, like Busch, encouraged council not to shelve the study, stressing there is real need in Sicamous and the surrounding area.
“What we’re dealing with here is… what our MLA told us yesterday – one of the highest unemployment areas in the province with the lowest wage in the province, “ said Martin. “So a lot of people can’t afford a car. They may have a drivers licence but they can’t afford a car. It’s limiting for opportunities for employment… Maybe we should be having a conversation with the resource centre. The mayor and council and myself and the executive from the resource centre to see if there’s some way we can make this work.”