Friday, September 20, 2013

by  Sam Van Schie - Nelson Star

Two new mid-size transit buses are expected to start serving local transit routes later this week.

The 23-seat Vicinity community buses have room for 16 standees and all the accessibility features of the larger Nova buses, including the low-floor entry ramp and folding seats to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility aids and strollers.

“It’s designed to look and feel like a regular transit bus — only smaller,” BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha explained during his visit to Nelson to introduce the new buses last Thursday.

The Vicinity is 10-feet shorter than the 40-foot Nova that currently makes the rounds on city streets. The larger bus, with its 70-person capacity, will still be used during peak commuter times, while the smaller style will become a common sight on the lesser used routes.

BC Transit ordered 15 Vicinity buses, which will also be put to work on the streets of Dawson Creek, Penticton, Kelowna and Fraser Valley. Nelson was the first community to receive theirs.

An earlier prototype of the bus was brought to Nelson for a trial period in 2008, though Achadinha noted there’s been many adjustments to the design since then. BC Transit will now consider how the first batch does in Nelson and elsewhere to decide if it should introduce them throughout the province.

“This a vehicle we’ve been looking at for at least the [six year] term I’ve been at BC Transit,” Achadinha said. “Particularly for communities looking to introduce transit or grow transit, this is the perfect kind of vehicle.”

There have been lots of changes for local transit users this year, as Nelson joined Castlegar and Trail in a new integrated transit system.

All the local bus routes were adjusted in July in attempt to improve directness of routes and connections, and a new fare system was introduced.