Attractions shuttle service ends

Free bus service on Saanich Peninsula needed more support to succeed

A short-lived shuttle bus service on the Saanich Peninsula will need new leadership and support if it’s going to make a comeback.

The Peninsula Attractions Shuttle has been canceled this year after its current operators could not find the required financial support to help keep the wheels on the asphalt. The shuttle was operated by a partnership of Saanich Peninsula tourist attractions, such as Butterfly Gardens, Butchart Gardens and the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. It began running in 2012 and had tripled its ridership (to 3,000 people) last year.

David Roberts, general manager of Butterfly Gardens in Central Saanich, has been the driver of the shuttle program and spent a lot of time trying to bring in the resources to keep the bus rolling. He said when one of their partners could not financially support the program and no one else stepped in, there was little choice but to cancel the shuttle, even though there was a commitment to keep it going for a third season.

“It just wasn’t profitable, even last year when we tripled our ridership,” Roberts said. “But it was getting there.”

The shuttle was designed to move people east and west on the Saanich Peninsula during the busy tourist season — July and August, seven days a week. Its focus was to bring locals and tourists alike to the area’s main attractions. It started out with a small fare, but went to a free, hop-on and hop-off service last year which led to an immediate increase in users. Even with a good deal on the bus and driver, Roberts said it still cost money.

“I would have liked to have seen it grow to run for four months, to allow the service to ramp up and get more interest. But again, it requires community buy-in and financial support.”

Roberts said he saw a benefit at Butterfly Gardens from the shuttle, noting that for them it was probably a break-even proposition.

“We just wanted to do what is right for the community.”

Roberts said local attractions are still well-served by other travel operators and even B.C. Transit. However he said the east-west travel by local residents was a focus of the Peninsula Attractions Shuttle.

Roberts added the shuttle website and Facebook page will remain online for now, in the hope someone else will take on the project for next year. He said he will provide his expertise to whoever steps into the role.