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Bus service might be coming to remote communities on Island’s northwest coast

Zeballos, Woss, Sayward and Tahsis might benefit from Strathcona Regional District push
Tahsis is 66 km from Gold River, which is the closest community with a grocery store, since the Gold River Co-op opened. The Strathcona Regional District is looking into a bus service along the route between Tahsis and Campbell River, as well as one from Kyuquot to Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror

Things are moving forward on a plan to establish a transportation service between rural communities in the Strathcona Regional District and Campbell River.

During their Feb. 8 meeting, the SRD board discussed a report outlining six different options for service, with the goal of narrowing it down.

“We’re looking for the board to give some further direction as to where they would like to go with this,” said Corporate Services Manager Tom Yates during the meeting. “The service levels … range from everything from twice weekly to once a month.”

In November, 2021, the board told staff to start looking into the possibility of setting up a public transportation service connecting west coast communities with Campbell River. The geography of the area made it so staff had to look at two routes. The first would be from Kyuquot to Campbell River, with service to Zeballos, Woss, and Sayward. The other would be from Tahsis to Campbell River, and would include Tsa’Xana and Upper Campbell Lake — which is part of Electoral Area D.

Each of the six service levels outlined in the report would have a different cost and different tax cost to residents. These ranged from an estimated annual service cost of $3.9 million and an estimated tax cost of $86.37 per household for twice daily round trip service to $219,000 and an estimated tax cost of $5.10 per household for once monthly round trip service.

Zeballos director Julie Colburne moved that staff look closer at the weekly and bi-weekly options, which would be 208 and 104 trips per year respectively and cost $451,666 for the weekly service and $300,866 for the bi-weekly service.

“People coming out to remote communities and in from remote communities … are used to running on a schedule when they go into town,” she said. “I think weekly or bi-weekly is sufficient.”

Tahsis Director Martin Davis, who was a proponent of the service, but was having trouble connecting virtually signaled his approval of those options as well.

Electoral Area A director Gerald Whalley did not, however, want his area to be included in the service to avoid increasing taxes to residents. Area D director John Rice also had concerns about being included, since only a small portion of his area was included in the proposed services and it would only benefit 50 or so households.

Whalley made a motion to exclude areas A and D from the service, saying that “we already have a very successful delivery service from Campbell River to Sayward, we already have a transportation van for people from Sayward to Campbell River and back we already have a free prescription delivery service from Campbell River. So we don’t need to be involved in paying for another service we’re fully looked after ourselves.”

However, electoral areas B and C were not included in the original report due to those communities being separated by water from the rest of the regional district. Removing electoral areas A and D would leave the service to be funded only by the municipalities. The removal of A and D would also cause confusion with the adjacent Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’ First Nation (KCFN) communities.

Whalley’s motion was defeated, but other directors still had reservations.

“I just wanted to say that I don’t like it at all,” said Campbell River director Kermit Dahl. “I don’t see much of anything for the residential taxpayers of Campbell River for this at all … if it was that good there would be somebody in the open market to be willing to provide this service and apparently there isn’t.

“I own a business in Campbell River and I do a lot of business with people from outside of Campbell River, many of the people that are here (in this meeting) have done business at my shop, but the fact that they do something in my shop doesn’t help my 13 employees necessarily pay their taxes,” Dahl said. “I have some serious reservations supporting this, and am having a hard time seeing how this isn’t an electoral area service, supported by them.”

Davis, whose tech problems were resolved, said the service “would be a huge boon to our community.

“We have a higher retirement population here and a lot of them aren’t able to travel this road in the winter because of the hazards with snow and all that and I know it would get a good subscription in this area,” he said.

Colburne’s motion to further investigate the weekly and bi-weekly service options passed, despite directors Whalley, Doll, Campbell River director Doug Chapman and Campbell River director Ben Lanyon all voting against the motion.

RELATED: Tahsis to improve transportation service for senior residents

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Campbell River Mirror in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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