The CVRD board has approved in principle the concept of a new publicly owned operations facility proposed by BC Transit.
PWTransit leases the district’s private facility on Knight Road in Comox, which presents challenges in terms of electrification of the fleet, expanding the system, business continuity, improved operations and incorporating green building principles.
BC Transit needs support from the CVRD to find a property. Constructing a facility would cost $27-43 million. The district’s share would be $6-11 million based on cost sharing with senior governments. Federal funding would reduce the CVRD’s share of design/construction costs to 20 per cent.
Area A director Daniel Arbour suggests moving forward, but Area C director Edwin Grieve urges caution.
“We like sparkly new things, but any reasonable person looking at the economy today realizes we don’t know what’s coming around the corner,” Grieve said at the July 12 board meeting. He noted the electoral areas pay 27 per cent of the budget but receive seven to 10 per cent of transit hours. “This is probably the worst time in the world to look at property purchases or building anything. Prices are sky high. We don’t have to lead the parade on this.”
Comox director Ken Grant agreed the timing is poor for such a proposal. He also noted a low level of transit ridership.
“It’s actually a bit of a joke in our community,” he said. “To even contemplate spending this kind of money to electrify a bus system that not many people are using seems hard for me to swallow.”
Courtenay director Melanie McCollum would like to proceed because there is not enough information for the board to make a decision. She feels the district could benefit in terms of reaping some operational savings to run an electric bus.
“We don’t know what we’re currently paying for that lease,” she said. “By proceeding now at least we’ll have a better sense if this is a yes or a no.”
CAO Russell Dyson suggests there are viable options that need to be analyzed.
The annual budget for diesel fuel for the local transit system exceeds $650,000. Electric charging costs are expected to be considerably less, as are maintenance costs for electric buses. Other savings, up to about $100,000 a year, could come from reduced deadheading costs if a new facility is located closer to bus routes and exchanges.
Grant and Grieve were the lone board members to oppose the recommendation for BC Transit to undertake further study and analysis.