A passenger waits for the #50 bus at the Langford Exchange, the West Shore’s main bus service into downtown Victoria. Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff

A passenger waits for the #50 bus at the Langford Exchange, the West Shore’s main bus service into downtown Victoria. Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff

Big wheels turning: No easy fix for West Shore transit woes

Regional councillors look towards alternative solutions

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on transit issues facing Greater Victoria residents. Today, we look at what the future might hold for public transportation in the region.

When it comes to relief for the Colwood Crawl, Coun. Rob Martin has big ideas.

Be it rail, a ferry service or even a Barcelona-style cable car, he believes it’s high time the region started thinking outside the box to solve its transportation woes.

“We’re in a problem where we are not going to build a second corridor. There isn’t going to be a parallel Trans-Canada (Highway) that’s going to allow us to take vehicles into the downtown core,” Martin said.

The Colwood councillor also doesn’t see simply adding lanes to the existing highway as relieving the existing commuter traffic congestion, citing studies that show building roads for higher density leads to those roads filling up quickly. “You don’t actually solve the problem long-term, so we have to look at alternatives.”

And while he admits a ferry or a gondola from Colwood to Victoria is merely a dream at this point, he doesn’t like to use the word “impossible.”

“We have to start looking creatively on how we’re going to start moving people.”

On Mar. 9, the province announced it was conducting a study on the viability of a commuter rail service along the E&N corridor, with results expected this summer – after the provincial election.

“The province is aware that Langford, Sooke and the western communities have been growing quickly and are projected to continue to grow significantly,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the announcement in Esquimalt.

“We think this idea has merit. We think that this idea could add transit capacity.”

Prior to the announcement, Langford Mayor Stew Young told the Gazette that he’s as optimistic as he’s ever been about the future of a commuter rail service, but that it’ll have to work when it comes to dollars and cents.

“We’re making some good progress. At the end of the day it’ll be a financial decision. A common sense, business case decision,” he said.

Young is convinced of the need to open up a badly needed second major route into Victoria. “The McKenzie interchange will help a bit, but we really can’t add any more to that corridor, so the only corridor that’s left on southern Vancouver Island is the E&N. We need to make sure that we move some people … or start to plan to move people on that corridor.”

Susan Brice, Victoria Regional Transit Commission chair, says BC Transit has been a party to discussions regarding the potential for commuter rail.

“It’s not our project … (but) they have certainly kept Transit apprised of their plans and our staff have attended meetings and have made all transit resources available,” she said.

Meanwhile, Langford has partnered with Wilson Transportation on the Langtoria Greenline, a commuter bus that aims to make trips into town stress-free, with complimentary coffee and WiFi in a coach bus setting.

The service has seen modest growth since its maiden trip last fall, although riders that have used the service have touted the line’s comfort and convenience as a reason they chose to sign up.

Wilson Transportation hopes the service can continue to grow, and has said it is prepared to run multiple buses if the demand is there.

Did you know?:

• Approximately 8,500 people per day ride B.C. Transit’s routes that operate between the West Shore and downtown Victoria

• 10 to 15 per cent of all people travelling on Highway 1 in the morning are coming to downtown Victoria in a bus

• There are 40 peak-hour buses leaving the West Shore and Cowichan Valley coming into the core area each weekday

• There is a bus every three to five minutes on weekday mornings leaving the West Shore and Cowichan Valley for downtown Victoria

• The Victoria Regional Transit System takes in approximately 90,000 to 100,000 passengers per weekday.

Transit alliance advocates for improvements

Last year, a group of citizens in the Capital Region formed the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, a grassroots organization that seeks improved public transportation, no matter what form it may take.

Eric Doherty, one of the organization’s founding members, moved to the region a year ago from the Lower Mainland and has already noticed some issues with transportation on southern Vancouver Island.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is buses being stuck in traffic on the highway,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to being on Highway 99 (in Vancouver) and having the shoulder bus lane and being able to be on the transit bus and whiz by a whole bunch of cars stuck in traffic.

“That’s what was really a bit shocking here.”

In addition to the pursuit of bus lanes, the organization plans to advocate for a raised gas tax in the region and will look to approach and work with municipal governments to lobby provincial and federal governments to respect climate change initiatives. “That’s kind of our longer term goal,” Doherty noted.

For more information about the organization, visit bettertransityyj.com.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Twitter:@joelgazette

BC TransitTransportationWest Shore on the Go

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