Increasing management fees by B.C. Transit are throwing a monkey wrench into Nanaimo Regional Transit System’s goals to improve ridership numbers.
Joe Stanhope, chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo, said the RDN is among dozens of local governments around the province expressing concerns about the funding relationship and level of communication with the provincial Crown agency.
“We’re aiming toward meeting the provincial government’s objective to double transit ridership by 2018,” said Stanhope. “But B.C. Transit in Victoria has got in the way of that by increasing management fees considerably. It puts us in a tight spot.”
B.C. Transit fees for Nanaimo Regional Transit were nearly $600,000 for conventional transit in 2010, up from $350,000 in 2008. Custom system (handyDART) fees were $106,000, up from $50,000.
“That’s a pretty skookum increase,” said Stanhope. “They dumped this on us after we adopted our budget a year ago March.”
B.C. Transit management service includes: fleet acquisition, inspection, insurance and maintenance; security systems for staff and property; market research and analysis; scheduling and ridership monitoring; handyDART dispatching; and monitoring customer service.
Dennis Trudeau, RDN general manager of transportation and waste services, said Nanaimo, along with the Sunshine Coast, Nelson and Powell River, operate their own systems, so there are some B.C. Transit services they don’t require.
“The RDN does a lot of the scheduling, which is not usually done by local governments but by B.C. Transit,” he said. “So it’s a little bit of a mixed bag for every different local government.”
Stanhope said the concerns are being expressed in other B.C. communities.
“We convened a meeting at the request of communities from all over the province and have asked for a meeting with Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom,” he said. “We would like independent review of the B.C. Transit governance model and the funding relationship with local governments.”
Discussions are ongoing to get a meeting with Lekstrom.
“They wanted to limit the meeting to four people, which is totally inappropriate considering the amount of interest around the province,” said Stanhope. “What we’re aiming for is to have B.C. Transit improve their communication with us.”
Joanna Linsangan, B.C. Transit spokeswoman, said Transit continually strives to improve communications.
Some efforts include senior staff and management planners visiting transit systems across the province, presentations to city councils and regional district boards, and a corporate newsletter.
“We just held an annual workshop in Penticton and had representatives from the RDN,” she said. “It’s a chance for Transit to speak to our municipal partners as well as our operating companies and those very issues of how we communicate with each other were certainly brought to the table.”
Nanaimo Regional Transit System’s operational budget is $16.8 million for 2011, up from $15.4 million in 2010.
Revenue comes from ridership and advertising, property taxes and funding from B.C. Transit which providies $3.5 million in 2011, up from $3.3 million in 2010.