Local elected officials should get seats on the BC Transit board and have a say in directing higher level operations, a review of BC Transit operations has recommended.
Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom appointed a review team in March after complaints that the provincially appointed BC Transit board was making costly changes without consulting the communities whose fares and property taxes cover more than half the cost of transit service, totalling $546,000 in 2012’s City of Terrace budget. The panel released its recommendations last Tuesday.
It held 25 meetings with 40 local governments across the province and received 30 written submissions, including one from the combined group of the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine, the City of Terrace, the City of Prince Rupert, the District of Kitimat and the District of Port Edward.
“Local government hasn’t felt they had a seat early enough at the table,” said Lekstrom. “Much of this boils down to a communication issue… [but] it’s already getting much better.”
Terrace’s director of finance, Ron Bowles, said communication between the city and BC Transit has improved over the past year.
There were “issues with the relationship over the last few years,” he said. “Communication is absolutely up.”
The report made 18 recommendations, including more input from local governments in BC Transit’s higher level operations, as dictated in the provincial government’s annual Letter of Expectations that sets the body’s mandate.
“We’d now have a say in that,” said Bowles, noting municipalities are a major funding partner for BC Transit. “That’s huge.”
Local governments bear the majority of the costs for transit in partnership with the B.C. government. In most of the 58 municipalities local governments contribute 53 per cent of the funding with the provincial government paying the remaining 47 per cent.
When he ordered the review, Lekstrom ruled out any increase in the provincial share of funding.
Last week he declined to comment on specific recommendations until they have been reviewed by local communities and discussed at the annual fall Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
“We look forward to what the minister has to say,” said Bowles, noting that this was just a report to a minister and changes haven’t been implemented yet.
• a local government advisory panel to consult on system-wide capital expenditures
• local governments should share information on long-term transit budget changes, land use and zoning decisions
• the province should amend the BC Transit Act to allow multi-year operating agreements
• BC Transit should report to municipalities twice a year ridership, cost per capita, passengers per capita and other performance measures.