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REPORTING · 5th December 2012
Walter McFarlane
Like any game, politics has many rules which govern what can and cannot be done. One such rule is, that in order to progress past 11:00 PM, a vote must be taken and passed by 2/3’s of the City Councillors.

This was the case on Monday, November 26th. Kitimat City Council had a large agenda planned. One of the topics for the meeting was a transportation service to the Northwest Regional Airport.

The public service had been offered by a private operator and was discontinued due to low ridership. The District of Kitimat is looking to take over the service provided for five months so they could determine if it is worth keeping. A memo to Council laid out proposed costs, bus sizes and fares.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made motion for Council to deem this an important service to open it for discussion. Council was told they could do an informal discussion on this topic.

“I think five months is great as a test period,” said Feldhoff. “Hopefully it won’t cost $25,000 a month.”

Feldhoff stated he would sooner say everyone paying the same fare rather than having separate fares for people with disabilities and people who are disabled. He pointed out BC Ferries had the same problem. They raised the rates and wondered why people are no longer using their service.

He also stated they could not meet every flight. He wanted to see 28 trips in a month and everyone pays $20 for the service.

Councillor Phil Germuth asked if they could work with Bechtel so the public could share the bus to the Airport with the out of town workers. Unfortunately, Bechtel told the District administration it was not feasible due to liability.

Germuth wanted to know if the District could pay into the liability. He was told administration was informed the Bechtel Bus was not a public bus.

Acting Mayor Corinne Scott wanted to know where the money to pay for the bus was coming from. Feldhoff reminded her it was coming from the taxes. However, Scott reminded Feldhoff 80% of the taxes were paid by industry.

Warren Waycheshen, Deputy Municipal Manager told Council they are trying to see if the industrial crowd will take the District Bus to the Airport. He explained they are given a stipend to do such.

Councillor Rob Goffinet stated the push for this is coming from the senior citizens so he agreed with a two tiered fare for this bus system. He wanted to know where the breakeven point for $25,000 a month was. He suggested giving the ridership a few hundred bucks and telling them to take a taxi.

He also suggested creating a private service which could support itself and backing it up if the ridership drops.

“This is a private company that we are basically backing up. We’re saying you can’t lose on this proposition. We’ll subsidize it $25,000 a month,” said Goffinet. “We’re trying to promote usage, we’re trying to back up and make it work.”

Waycheshen explained ridership would reduce the amount. If this had been successful in the past, Council would not have to do it now. Running a bus is a lot of money. If ridership drops, Council will have to look at Canceling the service. They do not know if the service will work.

He also suggested they maximize the times where they can go out with people and come back with people. They might even get some partners assisting with the money if it works.

Germuth reminded them they had to have the passengers there early as well. Councillor Mary Murphy stated they were creating a recipe for people to take advantage of Council if the service does not get utilized. She stated a lot of communities do not have a bus service to the airport.

“We’re trying to accommodate a few people. I don’t think this is going to be successful, especially since it has failed in the past. I don’t know what the answer is. These figures are scaring me a lot,” said Murphy.

Municipal Manager Ron Poole told Council there were not a lot of people who would use it, but there was a small group telling Council they would need this service.

Feldhoff told Council he wanted to give it a shot. He suggested a 7 passenger van, which would be cheaper than a 24 passenger van. He wanted to see what would happen over five months. Council discussed what would happen if they had a slow day, or one – two people a day.

Goffinet again wanted to make sure administration got their bang for the buck. Waycheshen explained if they hit every flight, it is going to get expensive. However, if they hit every odd flight, people might not use the service. Waycheshen suggested looking into the taxi companies.

He also told Council that if they considered the taxi route, they would have to put conditions on who could use it.

However, the discussion was cut short. It was 11:30 and Council needed a unanimous motion to pass to keep going for another hour. Feldhoff told Council if they were not ready to vote on it within 15 minutes, he would make sure the motion failed. Scott suggested he have a chocolate bar.

No one put a motion forward so the meeting was ended and the decision would return to Council on Monday, December 3rd. For the Meeting, Mayor Joanne Monaghan returned to the chair position. Not present was Municipal Manager Ron Poole so Deputy Municipal Manager Warren Waycheshen took his place.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to have an airport service commence. It was called and carried. The next step was to determine what their options were. While several proposals were presented to Council, there were two recommendations.

The first was for an airport shuttle with two tiered fees set at $25 and $15. Seniors and persons with disabilities would pay the $15. Council would pay a monthly subsidy of $18,000 for this idea.

The second was for them to subsidize a taxi cab ride out to the Airport. The going rate to the airport is $90 a trip. The rider would be subsidized between $55-$60 meaning they would only pay $30-$35 for their trip to the airport. Only seniors and persons with disabilities would be eligible for this subsidy. This is estimated to cost the District $8000-$9000 a month.

While this looks simple on paper, it was not going to be simple.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion not to go with a bus. Mayor Joanne Monaghan wanted to table this to look at the alternate scenarios. Councillor Phil Germuth agreed because he had more questions which he wanted answered.

Feldhoff was opposed to the tabling motion because the senior citizens wanted this service. The Taxi proposal was the least costly and they could lower the cost further. The taxi motion, ran over five months would be around a $40,000 subsidy.

Councillor Rob Goffinet said he wanted to have a full discussion of all of the options at a Committee of the Whole Meeting. Acting Municipal Manager Warren Waycheshen told Council it would be tight for the Christmas Season but they could do it.

There were still a number of issues they had to work out as well, such as: would the travelers have to pay the taxi up front and get reimbursed by the District or would the District be the ones paying the taxi cabs.

Councillor Corinne Scott was also going to vote against the tabling motion. Council has had plenty of time to look at their options. Councillor Edwin Empinado also wanted to see this in place before the time of year when people start traveling. The tabling motion was called, but it failed.

Council moved back to the original motion, to subsidize taxis for seniors and persons with disabilities. Feldhoff put forward the first part of the motion, canceling the bus service.. Scott stated she was opposed to the bus due to the monthly costs were too high. In addition, the bus would be moving back and forth if it was full or not.

Goffinet was opposed to this because he felt the best proposal was the bus. He expressed it would take less time to determine if the experiment is worthwhile or not, so the bus might run less than five months.

“[The bus is] open to everyone who wishes to use it in the community. It is an assignment on behalf of the community, especially those people who advocated a public bus or a shuttle to the airport, to try to make it work. And if it does not work over the winter, it assumes the greatest number of people young and old in Kitimat would use the shuttle to the airport because of the inclement weather, we could ascertain in the spring that the community is not in support of our efforts to get a shuttle bus going ot the airport and we could revise this experiment,” said Goffinet.

He added that if this is not used, then the public will have voted against it. He hoped people would ride the bus rather than take their cars and trucks. The motion to cancel the bus service was called and it failed.

Goffinet made a motion to put forward the bus service. Feldhoff wanted to divide the question. He was opposed to the motion because it was more expensive than the taxi. He said some people needed assistance to get to the airport and they parked their cars in long term storage. The taxi would provide the same service to the people who are vocal about it.

Scott agreed with Feldhoff. The Taxi Service could be $9,000, the bus was $18,000. It was seniors and people with disabilities who are asking for this. The taxi service would cover both of those. She figured the taxi would be best to get through the winter before experimenting to create a bus service.

Goffinet pointed out they were having the same conversation as they just had. He stated they were going to try and make the bus self-sustaining for an experimental period. He also told Council if this motion was defeated, they have to go back to the Taxi or say they did not want the public transit to the airport.

Germuth wanted to know if they could put the decision off to a future meeting if this motion gets voted down. He was told it could be done, but it was time to go back to the rules of engagement.

A defeated motion cannot be brought up again. However, it could be altered slightly so it was not the same motion.

Feldhoff expressed the bus was a lot of money, and could likely be more expensive than the taxi. He wanted to bring back a slightly different motion with the taxi and put the seniors out of luck.

Empinado wanted to know what could be changed on the taxi motion. He was told it did not have to be the exact same motion. He wanted to include everyone who needs the service and cannot afford it. The motion for the bus was called and defeated.

Feldhoff decided to go back into the collection of taxi motions. Scott stated the taxi service would be door to door while the shuttle bus would stop down town.

Once again, Goffinet stated he wanted: “A meeting that looks at all the dynamics, the costs beyond our printed report on a taxi or a bus. We’re going to do it anyway for a taxi, why not have a taxi and bus so we can at least get a handle on this.”

Scott stated the motion was for a request for a proposal. It had nothing to do with taxis. Goffinet expressed he was holding the line on the bus.

Murphy stated she was interested in the bus which already travels from Kitimat to Terrace. It stops at the airport twice a day, once coming from Terrace at 9:02 Am and once from Kitimat at 4:18 Pm. Murphy wanted to have a discussion about the Northern Connecter bus service.

Scott stated anyone who wanted to use the bus could do so. Monaghan pointed out the cheapest option was to take the Northern Connecter to Wal-Mart and then take a taxi up to the airport. Murphy also stated most people carry one bag to the airport. She was told Air Canada only allows one bag.

Waycheshen told Council the Northern Connecter bus could not take an extra trip to the airport because it would take the bus twenty minutes out of its route. It is currently providing timely service between Kitimat and Terrace. He has been told they are a passenger service not for moving people between airports. He was also told by Northern Health an extra stop would probably require another bus. He added Northern Health is paying 80% of the $220,000 cost of the Kitimat to Terrace bus service.

This motion was called and it was carried.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff made a motion to offer the service to seniors and persons with disabilities. Feldhoff expressed the taxi service should serve the need. He did not want it to be used too much and people should still be able to find methods of getting to the airport.

Empinado stated there were people who were using the bus who might not be able to afford a taxi. There were also people who might be traveling for medical reasons. Germuth stated there were also seniors who were well off and he did not want to take tax payers money to subsidize the wealthy.

Scott pointed out the irony, people going to the airport to catch an expensive plane ride who could not afford to travel to the airport. However, she agreed there were people who were traveling out for medical reasons and the bus which is funded by NHA does not stop regularly at the airport is an issue.

Feldhoff wanted to keep it to Seniors and Persons with disabilities because Northern Health has a transport system in place. He agreed with Monaghan’s idea for people who did not meet those conditions, take the bus to Wal-Mart and the taxi from there.

Empinado stated he wanted people who could not afford to use this regularly to be able to have their ride subsidized as well. He made an amendment for people who are on The District of Kitimat Leisure Access program to use this service. The motion on who to include was called and carried.

A motion to cancel the proposal for the bus service was called and carried with little discussion.

Feldhoff made the next motion to set the fare structure to $30 and if two or more people who qualify for the subsidy to take the same cab, it be reduced to $20 a person. He felt $35 was too much and would encourage people to carpool. It would minimize the subsidy and number of trips. The motion was carried.

Feldhoff’s final motion was to authorize $9000 subsidy until the end of April 15th. He expressed this was a reasonable cost for the trial. Scott wanted to make certain this was commencing as quickly as possible. Scott also wanted to make sure it was $9000 a month.

Waycheshen explained the estimate was based on 5 trips a day, cut down from the prior ridership because it would only be for seniors and people with disabilities. He was uncertain if the ridership would be bumped up because the program was expanded.

This brought up a pertinent question: “Have any discussions with the taxi companies taken place. There are only so many taxis here during the day, what if you have two heading out there to take people out to the airport and now they’re gone for a couple of hours, how many are left in town to service everybody else who needs them,” said Germuth.

Waycheshen replied there are already people being moved by the cab companies to the airport so, according to the companies, it should not be a problem.

Feldhoff hoped the cost would be less if people would take advantage of the reduced fee. They

would minimize the cost by minimizing the trips to the airport. The cabs would only go if asked for rather than out on every trip to the airport.

Waycheshen said the struggle with this is not knowing what the demands could be. Germuth made sure people could be picked up from the airport as well. The final motion was called and carried.
Comment by Leon Dumstrey-SooS on 6th January 2013
I would like to know what specific home work on the subject did Councilor Feldhoff as accountant do? This article suggests :"not very much"!

Just to pull the number out of a hat-$25,000.00- and say - I hope this will be enough!- and then the number becomes suddenly $40,000.00! , proves this.

I posed question to one of the councilors " what is your reason for doing this"? Answer was: "Kitimat People are spoiled"!

Don't you have to be fiscaly responsible? Answer was : "NO" we are elected officials and we can do as we please.

I can say no more....

When is someone in council going to become fiscaly responsible? Seriously, what are their priorities?
Airport transportation
Comment by Leon Dumstrey-SooS on 20th December 2012
The other day I wanted to fly for Christmas to Nanaimo. I was quoted (sit down) $ 1400.00 Air Canada! And if I stay 1 night in Vancouver it would be almost $ 400.00 cheaper???
At the same time Air Canada was advertizing(Elan Travel) all inclusive to Mexico at no cost Terrace Vancouver portion? WOW
And forming new Company to fly out of Torotno (what about the rest of Canada?)"Cheap Flights" so to be able to "COMPETE INTERNATIONALLY", unbelievable!! Is Air Canada subsidized by our "REGULAR SCANDALOUS RATES" ??? It is embarassing.Perhaps is time to change name "CANADA".

Not to long ago Local Bus Company had a contract I beleive with Air Canada for the same purpose and now is no more.

In past five years air tickets tripled. Now Council wants to add another "SUBSIDY"??

How about CHALLENGING Air Canada? How about finding competition to Air Canada??
Comment by mary on 8th December 2012
A motion to table this issue until the Northern Connecter bus service, could be discussed, that motion was defeated. The option of the northern connecter was not available to council, as northern health is the main funder for the service for medical reasons. It’s difficult to accept that this connector is utilized for medical reasons, but will not take citizens to the airport to catch a plane for medical reasons. The mayor stated that it would be cheaper to take the northern connector to terrace and take a cab to the airport at the cost of about 15$, cheaper if you were sharing. The issue was to get a service in place ASAP, as the tabling motion was defeated, this option was the only option on a trial bases. "To the cost of approximately 9,000.00" a month, depending on the usage. All the concerns mentioned were discussed.
Ride The Snake
Comment by Todd Montane on 6th December 2012
If the price was right I would Ride the Snake.
agree with rory
Comment by djb on 6th December 2012
If you can afford to fly , perhaps you can afford to get to the airport.A $90 cab ride occasionally is not out of line.You would pay more to get across Vancouver during the day. How often do people fly anyway ?The casual flyer should not be too bothered by a one shot expense.
Perhaps the $4 Kitimat/Terrace connector could be scheduled to coincide with more of the flights.( instead of the 20 minute jaunt through jackpine flats in the am that rarely sees a passenger pickup or drop off)
The reservation idea is also worth looking into. There are plenty of shuttle bussee in town these days, and they may have time in their schedules.Judging by the number of people that even used the other (private service) a new scheduled service will never pay.
A subsidy for a handful of people/day is not realistic.
Get a grip
Comment by Rory Brown on 6th December 2012
$25,000.00 a month. I'll tell you what. I will quit my job at RTA, buy a passanger van, and do it for $24,000.00 a month. There, I just saved the tax payers some money. Now back to reality. What planet is our council on. This is one of the dumbest ideas they have come up with yet. Before you so freely hand out tax dollars becouse you have some personal gain, look at all the options. Did anyone think to contact the companies in town that are in the "people moving" business? Maby they would be interested on a reservation basis. I am sure if when you book your flight you take the time to reserve a hotel and a car, you could also book your transportation. This is just one idea I am sure there are other that have ideas that would not cost the tax payers. Lets be honest, if you can afford a flight out of here for what we are being charged, you can afford to get to the airport.
bus/golf club madness
Comment by J.Cruijff on 6th December 2012
The councillors, better known as the give away bunch, are willing to accomodate a "small" group of seniors by subsidizing their trip to the airport to the tune of unknown thousands of dollars.
How many seniors were actually involved ?
If private enterprise could not make it work, pray tell what magic business plan does the District have.
I have had about enough of groups of citizens appearing in front of council demanding money, let them do some fundraising first and maybe Council can match up to a certain amount, say 25 cents for every dollar raised.
We still have only one industry in this town, the boom has not started yet and we are spending money like drunken sailors, my apology to the sailors.
As for the golfclub subsidy, sell the place if they cannot run it.
Comment by Apocalypse now on 5th December 2012
The district must be awash in cash. 100.Gs for golf course,25 Gs a month for bus service. Why didn't u subsidize the bus that used to drive RTA employees to work ,more people would use that than the airport bus.
a suggestion
Comment by Bob Drake on 5th December 2012
" Councillor Edwin Empinado also wanted to see this in place before the time of year when people start traveling" "

Start travelling? I wonder if the Councillor has seen the passenger numbers for YXT? Its at an all time high-
A suggestion, why dont the Hotels in Kitimat participate in this bus service idea? Most airport shuttles at most airports are run by people offering lodging.