FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John City Council has voted against a recommendation by staff to sign a memorandum of understanding with BC Transit regarding an expansion of transit service in the city in favour of lengthening existing bus routes for a trial period of one year.

The City’s General Manager of Integrated Services Victor Shopland gave a presentation to councillors at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday about the possibility of expanding bus service, especially in the wake of growth in recent years. Shopland said that in particular the new Margaret ‘Ma’ Murray School, which is due to open next fall, is not currently served by transit. The closest bus route is the #3 Central-Prospect Park, which stops along 106th St., roughly nine blocks from the school.

The current BC Transit service map in Fort St. John. Photo by BC Transit

Shopland said that after several attempts at asking BC Transit for a review of service in Fort St. John, the city only recently received an MOU from the transit authority. According to the terms of the MOU, the city would fund a portion of the additional bus for at least one year, at a cost of $225,000. That commitment would have allowed BC Transit to approach the provincial government for their portion of the funding: $200,000.

Had Council followed the recommendation, the City’s cost for bus service next year would have increased from $1,005,100 to $1,230,100, while the additional fares from the new route would have brought in an estimated $16,600.

Shopland said that other options were available to Council, including keeping service at existing levels, lengthening existing routes, or waiting to see what, if any, legislation the provincial government releases governing ride-hailing services in B.C. However, he said that lengthening those routes could result in the de-synchronization of the bus routes, meaning some trips by bus could take up to 90 minutes with connections.

Councillors voted in favour of lengthening the City’s current existing routes for a trial period of one year.