Chilliwack transit expansion put on hold by funding freeze

Expansion plans now on hold for Chilliwack include extending weekday bus service to Yarrow and Greendale, Cultus Lake, and more

A freeze on BC Transit funding by the province has put further expansion of the Chilliwack Transit system on hold.

A freeze on BC Transit funding by the province has put further expansion of the Chilliwack Transit system on hold.

A freeze on BC Transit funding by the province has put further expansion of the Chilliwack Transit system on hold.

“We received word from the province that transit funding over the next two years will not be increased,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz at the April 22 council meeting.

They plan to ask the province to reconsider.

“The current levels of transit funding are safe, but any expansion is not going to happen,” said Gaetz. “We are deeply disappointed at the City of Chilliwack and frustrated that we will have to wait to continue improving our transit system.”

Expansion plans now on hold for Chilliwack include: extending weekday bus service to Yarrow and Greendale, service to Cultus Lake in 2016, custom expansion for 2017, and Evans route improvements.

“We do remain ever hopeful,” said Gaetz.

Ridership on Chilliwack Transit increased substantially in recent years with improvements that included rerouting, expanded service hours, and 20 minute service on the Yale/Vedder corridor.

“We were on a bit of a roll in terms of ridership growth,” she said. “That has really made a difference in terms of us softening our footprint. We know there is a strong appetite for transit in Chilliwack.”

Chilliwack Transit saw overall ridership numbers grow to 545,811 trips in 2013/14, up from 517,050 in 2012/13, according to figures from BC Transit. The spike in ridership on route #1  was pegged at 15%, and was seen as the driving force behind the system-wide increase.

Coun. Jason Lum, who sits on the Lower Mainland Local Government Association, said he’ll be talking about the freeze at the regional level.

Lum took to Twitter to signal his opposition: “You know what supports a greener community? Public Transit! Time to reconsider freezing the BCTransit budget!”

He noted the inclusion of $750 million for a new public transit fund in the federal budget.

“Maybe the Province can reconsider BC Transit budget freeze now?” Lum tweeted.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno