Next phase in Chilliwack’s transit expansion on the way

Transit expansion could mean 15-minute service on Chilliwack's busiest bus route, and service extensions to areas like Greendale and Yarrow.

Chilliwack council was expected to commit to a new transit expansion plan Tuesday that could mean 15-minute service on its busiest bus route, and extended routes to finally serve areas like Greendale and Yarrow.

High/medium/low cost scenarios for 2017-19 are being considered at the afternoon session and City of Chilliwack’s share of the transit funding for the expansion would be $10 million+ over three years.

The staff recommendation, based on input from the city’s Transit Advisory Committee, was to opt for the highest level of service expansion, with improvements starting in 2017.

A recent letter from BC Transit, included in the staff report, shows that Chilliwack transit system was on deck for changes:

“Because your transit system has been identified as a candidate for potential expansion, the attached Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is provided to formalize the process of securing appropriate expansion funding on your behalf,” according to the BC Transit letter to the city.

A provincial funding freeze on transit has been lifted, and city officials are now required to commit, by signing a memorandum of understanding to apply for matching funding.

So serious talk of expanding Chilliwack transit with key initiatives over the next three years is now on the horizon. It comes on the heels of an announcement in March of $12.7 million in provincial funding for local transit expansions across B.C. over the next three years.

Last year a B.C. funding freeze put transit expansion plans on hold. But in March, the provincial government announced a boost in funding that would allow the expansion efforts to get back on track.

The Chilliwack transit expansion would include:

• Route #1 – improved reliability and increased frequency to 15 mins at peak; and Rt. 3 – frequency to 30 mins at peak. All on weekdays.

• Route #8 – extension on Keith Wilson to Lindy’s Drive weekdays & weekends.

• Yarrow-Greendale will see introduction of weekday service (5 trips daily)

• Bus service introduced to employment/industrial area on weekdays

Other elements of the expansion plans include increased custom transit, or HandyDART initiatives.

If Chilliwack council agrees to the plans, BC Transit will start planning for the purchase of the seven additional vehicles over three years.

“The Chilliwack share of transit funding ($2.4 million in 2016) is provided from transit revenues (about $800,000 or 30%) and property tax (approximately $1,600,000 or 70%). The increase in transit spending described will be partially offset by revenue increases, with the balance of the increase funded by a property tax increase,” according to the staff report to council. “The remaining funds would require an increase in property taxes of approximately 1.0% by 2019, with roughly 0.4% needed in 2017.”