New shuttle seeks funds

Free community bus service will be expanding this summer

A new shuttle service to various points on the Peninsula is growing out of last year’s attractions bus supported by some of the area’s best-known tourist destinations.

The Peninsula Shuttle Committee will launch an expanded route and services after seeing success with the model in 2012. David Roberts, president of the committee and executive director at Butterfly Gardens in Central Saanich, says they are currently seeking sponsorships and partnerships to keep the shuttle service free.

“Our Peninsula Attractions Shuttle started off charging $9.95 to ride as much as you like,” Roberts told the March 13 tri-municipal meeting in North Saanich.

“We got just 127 riders in the first month.”

When they made the shuttle free, ridership jumped to 873 on only one month.

“This was initially going to be an attractions bus but we want to expand it to a community shuttle,” Roberts explained.

The routes would have an east-west focus, with trips to local attractions like Butchart Gardens, the Mary Winspear Centre and Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, to name a few. It would also continue to transport children to various summer camps at Panorama Recreation Centre and Greenglade Community Centre.

Asked about the cost of the service, Roberts said it’s going to be around $45,000 in wages, fuel, insurance and maintenance. Planned funding from the Peninsula Recreation Commission was promising, but recently fell through, Roberts said. The ability to fund such a program was not in the commission’s bylaws.

Now, Roberts said they are looking for help in the community and possibly from local municipal councils. He added the committee has committed to three years running the shuttle (2013 will be the second year) during the summer.

“It is a test,” he explained. “There is no guarantee but we think there’s a need. It’s free, and that’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s a gutsy move,” said Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson.

“This is a natural expansion of last year’s attractions bus and will help retain economic opportunities on the Peninsula.”

Bryson said the committee should do what it can to seek our sponsorships from local businesses first, before local governments wade in.

Roberts said the committee will do just that, adding he hopes if there’s any money needed after that effort, the three municipalities will pitch in.

“We are not looking for any more than what the service costs,” he said.