Merritt’s city council wants to expand transit service to the Coldwater reserve, but city staff have had a tough time bringing all the partners to the table.

In a presentation to council on April 16, BC Transit’s government relations manager Chelsea Mossey said Merritt’s transit system is already impressive for a city of its size.

However, city staff and councillors have their sights set on expanding.

At the meeting, Coun. Kurt Christopherson inquired about the status of the Coldwater reserve expansion, a project the city has expressed interest in when it was presented to council by BC Transit in 2016.

“It is scheduled for next year,” responded Sheila Thiessen, the city’s acting CAO. “The difficulty with Coldwater is we have to get the commitment from the Coldwater Band and the TNRD, and it takes the TNRD a year or so to establish the service. It’s something we’ve been working on, but we’re not firm yet.”

Following the meeting, Thiessen clarified the project is “definitely on the city’s radar,” but it likely won’t be until 2021 that the city, the TNRD and the Coldwater Band can get the wheels in motion.

“We don’t have a formal agreement from anybody at this point,” she said. “So we need to start having some meetings sooner rather than later, but it has been hard to get all the parties to the table.”

Thiessen added she doesn’t know what the barriers are holding stakeholders back.

“We haven’t really gotten to that point either. I know [the Coldwater Band has] spoken to [BC Transit] but we should probably be scheduling another meeting soon, once things settle down a little bit here,” she said.

The Merritt transit system has been hauling locals around town since November 2007, and now facilitates an average of 75,000 passenger trips per year, Mossey said, equating to 14.7 rides per service hour.

Operated by the Nicola Valley Transportation Society, three buses travel four routes in Merritt and Lower Nicola from Monday to Friday, with on-request service available as well.

Should the Coldwater expansion proceed, Thiessen said those living in the rural community could benefit more from the service.

“And it just brings more people into town,” she said. “And we could probably accommodate some minor changes to routes in town if we have that extra expansion. It would be nice to actually make some progress moving forward.”

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the Coldwater Band did not respond to the Herald for comment.