DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – A Dawson Creek resident is suggesting City Council use public transit throughout November to recognize the challenges bus users are constantly facing.
Raistlin Van Spronsen, an avid transit user, hasn’t been shy about his stance after cuts were made by the City over a year ago.
“With a reduced ridership due to these cuts, it’s even harder to get on a bus during early morning and evening and impossible on Saturday as the busses no longer operate on Saturday, ” read a post made by Van Spronsen last week.
Mayor Dale Bumstead said he has no issue with Spronsen and commends his passion and advocacy. However, he says low ridership was the main reason for the cuts.
“Since I’ve been the mayor of Dawson Creek, for eight years, we have juggled and managed the transit system and so many variations to try to increase ridership,” said Bumstead, adding that ridership hasn’t increased since he’s been in office.
Council decided to look at the service after complaints from residents of busses travelling around empty and tried different options to increase ridership before deciding on the cuts.
“We have buses running around Dawson Creek on a regular basis that are virtually empty and it’s an expensive process to have that happen when the people are just not utilizing the service.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership was at nine per cent in the city, and it cost taxpayers a pretty penny.
“The direct subsidy to the taxpayers of Dawson Creek was just over $700,000 a year, and we had 100,000 rides,” said Bumstead, noting it has been difficult to determine the impact on ridership due to the pandemic.
The City’s primary focus is providing routes for students in the mornings and afternoons when transit is used the most.
As for Van Spronsen’s challenge, Bumstead said he wouldn’t be accepting due to his travel throughout Northeast BC.
Van Spronsen understands the difficult decision council made with the cuts but wishes there was more public engagement on the matter.
At the very least, he is hoping a bus can start running on Saturday.
“We have a gap between 10 a.m. and, I think, 1:20 p.m., running one bus. I say do something similar on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or something like that, just so people can get around,’ said Van Spronsen.
Van Spronsen says a taxi would cost him around $24 a day, whereas a bus pass is $56 a month.