Regional Transit Systems
BC Transit works in partnership with 58 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: a Transit Service
Area Agreement, Master
Operating Agreement (MOA) and an Annual
Operating Agreement (AOA). The AOA is renewed on an annual
The selection of the transit operating company is conducted
through a public Request For Proposal process and is undertaken
on a seven-year cycle. 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), and non-profit societies
where the annual contract value falls below a specified threshold.
Funding for Regional Transit Systems
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.
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
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.
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 companys
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.
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
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
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
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)
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 Kevin
Schubert, Director, Regional Transit Systems.