Regional Transit System

Regional Transit Systems

BC Transit works in partnership with 59 local governments. In most communities, the local BC Transit service is provided through a partnership between BC Transit, local government and a contracted transit operating company. Regional transit system service levels and budgets are approved each year by local government, who also set fares and local property taxes to pay their contribution of transit costs. This partnership is formalized through series of agreements.

The selection of the transit operating company is conducted through a public Request For Proposal process and is undertaken typically every nine to 15 years. The exceptions to this process are systems operated by public organizations (Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Nelson, District of Powell River and the Sunshine Coast Regional District).

Funding for Regional Transit Systems

The British Columbia Transit Act and the British Columbia Transit Regulation sets out the regulations and formula for sharing costs of transit between BC Transit and the Municipal authority.

Regional Transit System - Legislated Funding Formula

Funding Pie Chart - Regional

BC Transit's share of transit system funding is provided by the Provincial Government. BC Transit funds 46.69% of conventional transit systems and 66.69% of custom systems. A system that is a combination of custom and conventional service (paratransit) will have a cost sharing percentage that reflects the level of each type of service.

The Municipal share is made up of revenue from fares and local property taxes. The Municipality uses revenue collected from the transit system (fares, advertising, etc.) to reduce the local property tax share of costs. Because the proportion of total expenditures paid for by fares varies significantly from system to system, the percentage of expenditures paid from local property taxes also varies by system.

Assignment of Key Responsibilities

BC Transit's Key Responsibilities

Planning: Developing long range plans, operational plans and transit schedules.
Funding: Funding 46.69% of conventional transit systems and 66.69% of custom systems.
Customer Information and Marketing: Promoting transit system information, routes, schedules, policies and transit ridership benefits.
Fleet Management: Specifying, testing and acquiring transit vehicles and setting fleet maintenance standards.
Contract Administration: Managing transit system budgets and service contracts with transit management companies.
Safety, Training & Security: Promoting safety initiatives, standardizing training and supporting policies aimed at meeting security and safety standards.
Professional Services: Environmental, Asset Management, Human Resources, Purchasing and Financial.

Local Government Key Responsibilities

The Municipal authority shares in the funding responsibilities, approves all service plans and tariffs, accounts for revenue, and maintains local transit infrastructure (e.g., bus stops, exchanges, shelters and benches) and markets local ridership benefits and programs.

Municipalities that vigorously support transit through changes in land use development policies, parking policies, or Transportation Demand Management policies are the systems that receive the greatest support for future expansion.

Annual Partner Communications

Our Annual Partner Communications consists of four key processes: the Transit Improvement Program, an Annual Performance Summary, Three Year Budgets and the Annual Operating Agreement.

Funding and Governance Graph 2 - image

Transit Improvement Program (TIP)

The TIP communicates to local government (LG) the expansion initiatives proposed for the next three years. It seeks the commitment to the expansion initiatives from LG which thereby allows BC Transit to proceed with securing sufficient funding within the Provincial Budget. This includes the allocation process and results of expansion priorities from Transit Future Plans, other Service Plans, local initiatives as well as major capital initiatives necessary for the development of the transit system.

Annual Performance Summary (APS)

The APS offers a high level analysis of the system’s performance, in comparison to prior years, and where established, the opportunity to measure against service standards established by the local government. The intent is to inform council prior to decision on expansion initiatives for future years and subsequent budgeting. This document also serves as an opportunity to present results to council and to engage in discussion on decisions aimed at future year initiatives.

Three Year Budgets (3YB)

The 3YB provides LG with budget expectations for the coming year and two year projections for base service levels. Additionally, a calendar year budget estimate is provided for the convenience of LGs. Where the LG has confirmed their desire to pursue expansion initiatives, a separate budget will follow with expansion budget projections.

Annual Operating Agreement (AOA)

Defines the service to be delivered, the provincial and municipal funding contributions, and the tariff schedule. Any changes to services defined in the AOA require the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding which defines the objectives and scope of the service change. The intent is to ensure that all parties are in agreement to changes to the defined service in the AOA. Additionally, it defines the appropriate timeline, from the time of this agreement, necessary for the provision of service including planning, scheduling, operator training, shift changes, and fleet procurement if necessary.

Annual Partner Communications Calendar - PDF

Selection of an Operating Company

A contracted transit management company operates the service, including hiring and training drivers, providing front-line customer service, and maintaining vehicles.

The selection of a company to operate the transit system is conducted through a public Request for Proposal process. BC Transit, requests proposals from companies, organizations or individuals to operate the transit system.

BC Transit staff in consultation with the staff from the local government partner, evaluates each proposal on the proponent's overall ability to operate the transit system by examining several criteria. Detailed descriptions of a company’s plan for operations, asset maintenance, facilities, staff management, environmental protection, customer service and other factors are solicited and evaluated. Costs are also considered in the evaluation with the aim to select the proposal that presents the best value for money to BC Transit, its customers and funding partners.

Fleet Support

BC Transit provides, owns and certifies the provincial fleet. The fleet for the conventional and custom/paratransit systems are managed as a unit, which allows for the movement of vehicles to locations around the Province where they are best suited. There are a variety of fuel types currently in use throughout the Province, such as hydrogen, a biodiesel blend and clean #1 Diesel. All new conventional transit buses meet or exceed North American emission standards.

All new conventional buses purchased since 1992 have been low-floor vehicles. With all high-floor buses being retired or moved to a contingency fleet, BC Transit's provincial fleet is now 100% accessible.

BC Transit has a long history of leadership and innovation when it comes to technology and environmental stewardship, including the testing and use of alternate fuels. As part of BC Transit's commitment in identifying cleaner, greener ways to provide service across the Province, BC Transit regularly tests new types of fleet and fuel technology.

Regional Systems History & Growth

The Regional Transit System Program of BC Transit was established in 1979. In partnership with local government, this program provides for planning, marketing, fleet management, funding and contracting for transit services in BC that are outside of Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria.

The Regional Transit System Program has evolved since its inception in 1979. Growth in B.C. communities has been matched by the growth in the number of transit systems from 13 in 1979 to 79 systems (24 conventional, 16 Custom and 39 paratransit systems) at present.

The Program has initiated and developed services to improve mobility and accessibility in BC communities. handyDART, a door-to-door service for customers who are unable to use conventional service, began in 1981. Now all buses purchased are fully accessible. These services provide mobility to seniors and persons with a disability. Transit service to rural areas and small towns has been developed with innovative approaches to service delivery.

Finally, the Program is responding to the increasing role expected of transit in our cities. The link between transit and land use planning is reflected in transit service in the larger regions. Working with local partners to provide a transit service that fulfills the needs of the community and ensuring an effective use of public funding are key objectives for transit today.

Highlights of Conventional Transit System Growth:

The amount of conventional transit delivered to BC residents in the Regional Transit System Program has almost doubled since 1979. There are two key reasons for this:

The number of transit systems has increased from 11 in 1979 to 24 today. Over 900,000 BC residents have access to these transit services.

The frequency of service in the six largest transit systems has increased. These transit systems now make up over two-thirds of the total amount of conventional transit service in the Program.

Highlights of Custom Transit and Paratransit System Growth:

The growth in custom transit and paratransit services has been even more dramatic. Starting with 14 transit systems in 1981 (4 custom + 10 paratransit), this portion of the Program has grown to 55 transit systems. Over 1.5 million BC residents have access to these specialized and small town & rural transit services.

The custom/paratransit program has continued to seek new and innovative ways to meet the travel needs of persons with mobility needs in BC. In addition to the van and minibus service that are reflected in the service charts, taxis are used to deliver Taxi Supplement and Taxi Saver (discounted coupon) services.

New Transit Systems

BC Transit is willing to enter into discussions with every community or area that does not have transit and wishes to investigate the options possible. BC Transit may provide some early estimates for consideration by the local area. If the service options are more complex there is a process in place to produce a feasibility study. The interested community or area formally requests a feasibility study by local government resolution which is subject to approval by BC Transit. This study is cost shared 50/50 between the community and BC Transit and is carried out or managed by BC Transit staff.

A feasibility study reviews the local land use patterns, transportation network, local travel demand patterns and objectives of the community. The study provides options for transit based on the foregoing factors. If approved by both the local government and BC Transit a detailed implementation plan is prepared.

When a plan moves to implementation after approval by the local government and BC Transit, an operating company must be selected and a Transit Service Agreement (TSA) and a Master Operating Agreement (MOA) must be approved. The TSA outlines the area to be served by transit and the responsibilities of BC Transit and the municipality. The MOA is the contractual document that defines the responsibilities of the two funding parties and the contracted transit operating company. It also defines the service to be delivered, the budget and cost sharing, payment schedule, tariff and other operational requirements. The MOA is reviewed and updated every year with an Annual Operating Agreement (AOA).

For more information on developing new transit systems in British Columbia, please contact Christy Ridout, Vice President, Business Development.