by Adrian MacNair
Council for the District of Kent has approved handing over control of a sub-regional transit partnership with Harrison Hot Springs, Chilliwack, and Electoral Area “D” to the Fraser Valley Regional District.
The District of Kent has managed this partnership since the inception of the Agassiz-Harrison route in 1999 in conjunction with funding from BC Transit. The route currently runs seven days per week, 11 times each day, servicing the sub-regional needs of residents for health, education, and business purposes.
Kent mayor John Van Laerhoven said the agreement makes sense because it means regional services are administered by the regional district.
“Agassiz took it on a good number of years ago to establish this service because we wanted people to be able to get from Agassiz and Harrison to Chilliwack and back,” he said.
The change isn’t expected to impact the budget, since the proposed funding formula is consistent with the 2010 formula that would see Kent pay 36 per cent ($64,000), Harrison pay 32 per cent ($57,600), Chilliwack pay 25 per cent ($45,000), and Electoral Area “D” residents pay seven per cent ($12,600).
Under BC Transit’s Master Plan it envisions this route expanding into Seabird Island and the District of Hope, with long-term plans — 20 years or more — to service Mission and Abbotsford as well.
Kerry Hilts, director of community recreation and parks for the District of Kent, said that’s particularly important for those who want to access the West Coast Express, which provides sub-regional transit between Mission, Lower Mainland communities, and downtown Vancouver.
Service hours for the Agassiz-Harrison route were doubled in 2010 which currently meets the basic needs of the community, but there’s room for improvement in terms of expanding into more evening and weekend service, said Hilts.
Van Laerhoven said he’s heard complaints about the lack of reliable transit between larger communities like Chilliwack and Abbotsford, meaning students in Chilliwack and Agassiz have to rely on the car to get to Abbotsford’s University of the Fraser Valley campus.
“Obviously that sub-regional service will grow. Demand will drive more service as time goes on and connectivity between the big centres,” he said.
Harrison mayor Leo Facio said their community has already approved the partnership, acknowledging the large percentage of residents in Harrison and Agassiz who already use the bus.
“We’re very pleased that we do have some more bus service in the community which helps our students getting to the university and our folks getting to some shopping in Chilliwack or getting to the Greyhound bus depot,” he said.
Discussions between District of Kent staff and the FVRD began in 2011 to develop a sub-regional agreement, with three meetings taking place in early 2012 to hammer out details of the governance model. Staff further recommended handing over financial management to the FVRD in a July 17 report to council citing difficulty getting consensus on financial matters affecting regional partners that was proving “challenging and time consuming.”