City officials received a sneak preview and demonstration Thursday of one of the 10 new BC Transit buses rolling onto the streets over the next several months.
The modern 30 to 35-foot public buses are being hailed as a long-overdue upgrade to Terrace, Kitimat and routes between, offering passengers a greater level of comfort, accessibility and safety.
The roll out will begin this fall with the delivery of two 30-foot buses to Kitimat, followed by three 35-foot versions in early 2018. Around that time BC Transit will deliver three 35-foot buses to Terrace, then another two later in the year to the Skeena Regional Transit System, connecting Terrace, Kitimat, Gitaus, Kitsumkalum, New Remo and Kitamaat Village.
Terrace’s current 35-foot Dennis Dart buses on the road are among the oldest in the BC Transit fleet.
“We’ve got buses that are 17-years old and they’ve certainly timed out,” said Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc. “The [new buses] certainly couldn’t have come at a better time. I sit on the BC Transit board and I’ve watched a lot of new buses go out to [other] communities…and you always wondered, when is it’s Terrace’s turn? …Well it’s today.”
The sleek 35-foot Vicinity buses can fit 30 seated passengers with room for another 24 standing when neither of the two spots for wheelchairs or scooters are in use. The buses also are equipped with closed-circuit television cameras inside and outside for security purposes. BC Transit has equipped buses in 13 other communities with the cameras and say they’ve seen immediate benefits.
“They’re really instrumental in supporting law enforcement should an unfortunate event happen on the bus, such as the assault of an operator,” said Denny Byrne, BC Transit’s director of fleet management. “We also believe that by having the cameras on the bus it’s also a great deterrent to unwanted behaviour.”
Produced by Grand West Transportation in Aldergrove, BC., each of the 10 buses will cost about $347,000, paid for in part through $160-million in federal and provincial funding for B.C. transportation projects announced last year.
City staff were unavailable for comment on Terrace’s share of the cost, as many were away for the UBCM conference in Victoria
Earlier this month during a regular council meeting, councillor Brian Downie questioned the need for buses of this size, pointing out that few people use the service. He said council has been told before that the buses are only full at specific times, Monday to Friday, when students are travelling to and from school.
“It seems like we need a mix of vehicles to be efficient,” he said.
BC Transit’s Senior Regional Transit Manager, Chris Fudge, was at the meeting and assured council the bus sizes were carefully considered.
“An analogy I often use is similar to your own vehicle, sometimes during the week you can get away with a compact car and sometimes on weekends you need a bigger vehicle when your kids go to soccer,” said Fudge.
“It’s your peak loads that dictate the size of the buses.”
He added it’s more cost effective to use one piece of equipment than various sizes of buses.
With files from Margaret Speirs