At its regular meeting on April 8, Cache Creek council voted unanimously for the Village to rejoin the local transit system, which currently serves Ashcroft and Clinton.
In addition to a Health Connections bus which runs to Kamloops and back on most Mondays, there is a monthly service (on the final Monday of each month) from Ashcroft and Clinton to 100 Mile House. On Wednesdays and Fridays the bus makes two runs daily between Ashcroft and Clinton, and is also available in both communities for door-to-door service for a portion of each day.
Cache Creek was part of the service when it started in 2008, but pulled out in 2013. In March 2016 members of the Para-Transit committee appeared before Cache Creek council to extend an option to rejoin, offering the Village free membership in the service for a year. However, in June 2016 Mayor John Ranta said that Cache Creek council had “no immediate consideration for re-entering the local transit system”.
Cache Creek councillor Wendy Coomber was there in the media gallery at council meetings when Cache Creek was originally part of the system. “I agree with the town’s reasons at the time for cancelling,” she says. “However, I’ve watched the service blossom in the years since. It seems very good, very well run.”
She says that in 2016 the Village asked for numbers, such as ridership, which they didn’t get. However, when she campaigned as a council candidate in a by-election later that year, a lot of people asked why there was no bus and when the Village would be getting the service back.
“We talked about it at council, and there was some bad feeling about how things were handled when the service was first initiated. So there was talk, but it didn’t get too far.”
Coomber says that Ranta had plans for a vehicle with volunteer drivers that would take care of Cache Creek residents, but that didn’t proceed. Finally, at a council meeting in September 2018, Councillor David Dubois made a motion to investigate the cost of rejoining the system, a motion that was seconded by Coomber and passed by a vote of two to one, with Ranta — the only other council member present at the meeting — voting against.
The subject was again at the forefront during the 2018 election campaign. “It never really went away, but it gained steam during the election because of that pre-election motion, and because of the age-friendly study [in 2018], where transit was identified as a big concern for the population.”
With three new faces at the council table after the 2018 municipal election, Coomber says there were three new strong supporters of rejoining the transit system if possible. “I kept abreast with what was happening with the service, and liked what I saw, but it was a lot of money, and prices tend to go up.”
At the Cache Creek council meeting on March 25, 2019 Jack Kehoe — Executive Director of Yellowhead Community Services, which operates the transit system — and Ashcroft Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Allen appeared as a delegation to provide information about the service.
They explained the set-up, schedule, and the services offered, with Kehoe noting that ridership has been increasing and that the after-hours bus service — which was not offered when Cache Creek was originally part of the system — has proven very popular. He also said that the original operator was very costly and inefficient, but that in the five or six years since Yellowhead took over the buses are very well-maintained and looked after properly, and that the company has made many efficiencies. Allen seconded this, noting that “Yellowhead saved our transit system.”
She added that she was glad Ashcroft stayed with the system. “It’s a social program. It will never make money, but I can’t imagine the community without it.”
The initial cost to Cache Creek of rejoining the system was put at approximately $75,000, with an annual cost of around $13,500 (slightly more than Clinton, slightly less than Ashcroft), with Allen noting that the system has operated under budget for the last five years, with surpluses put in reserve to offset the cost of lease fees.
Kehoe explained that the estimated costs were if they kept within the parameters of the current schedule with minor tweaks. He noted that if Cache Creek also wanted door-to-door service that would have to be discussed, but added that the current schedule allows Clinton residents to take advantage of Ashcroft-based services such as the Food Bank and Soup’s On.
“We’re looking at the budget at the moment,” says Coomber, “and trying to see how to maintain existing services, let alone adding more. The basic service is the cheapest, so we thought we’d go for that, then see how it goes and go from there.
“But we decided that people want transit. That came through loud and clear in the election.”
The next step, she says, is to meet with the other partners in the system and go over the fine points. It was noted by Councillor Sue Peters at the March 25 meeting that the current Health Connections bus stop, at the A&W, wasn’t central for most people, and Kehoe said that the location of the stop is subject to discussion.
“We need a central stop with washrooms and somewhere to sit,” says Coomber. She adds that a former council member felt that the transit system would take people out of Cache Creek to spend their money elsewhere.
“I pointed out that was a two-way street, and people will come here. I don’t know how long it will take to implement, but I hope it can be expedited. It’s moving; slowly, but it’s moving.”