Locked gates adjacent to Gowland Tod Provincial Park. In the past, boaters and the public had been able to catch the bus from Butchart Gardens but the company has now barred access to non-paying customers. No reason has been given and the company declined to answer any questions. (Nick Murray/News Staff)

Man says Butchart Gardens asked him to pay full entry price to use bus stop

Butchart Gardens says public can use bus stop, but it has limited service

A visitor to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park who was wishing to catch the bus into town from nearby Butchart Gardens said he was told to pay full entry price to do so, but the Gardens have said that has never been part of its policy.

Matt Wallis, from Anacortes, Wash., has been mooring at Tod Inlet for years and regularly used the bus stop. He explains his recent experience.

“So we walked over to the entrance of the gardens and asked if we could have access to the BC Transit bus terminal and they said ‘Oh no, that’s only for paying customers.’ So they’re limiting access to the public bus to their paying customers, which is a little nutty I thought, I mean, it’s a public bus.”

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Boaters are reluctant to pay the entry fee as it dwarfs the price of the actual bus fare. They now have to embark on a one-kilometre walk, uphill and exposed to traffic, to get to the next stop. These boaters rely on the BC Transit service to get supplies from local stores and amenities. It is estimated that crews of up to 40 vessels are currently being affected by the policy.

“That park is used by tons of people not just boaters and you’d think that BC Transit would like to provide service to it. I would hope either they add a stop right outside the gardens, probably 100 feet from the current stop, or the Gardens need to let other folks use that bus terminal,” says Wallis.

At the time, Black Press Media reached out to The Butchart Gardens for comment but was unable to receive a reply by press time. Since then, the Gardens have said members of the public have never been charged to access the on-property bus stop, which has been on the property since the 1980s. The stop was built in collaboration with BC Transit for visitors and the Gardens’ 650 staff members to use.

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“If a visitor of [Gowlland Tod] shows up at the admission gates and asked about using the bus stop, we would refer them to the full service bus stop at Wallace and Benvenuto. It has more frequent service and the Gardens have selective service,” said The Butchart Gardens chief executive Dave Cowen. “If they were to get on the bus from Butchart, by the time they come back from town we might be closed and that leads to a lot of concern and worry.”

Cowen noted that if someone who was elderly or had a mobility difficulty presented themselves at the gate and wanted to catch the bus staff would help them get to the on-property stop or even to the stop up the road if the scheduling was better.

In the past, Butchart Gardens has expressed interest in improved transit provision and this summer BC Transit increased its service to the business, enhancing routes #75 and #81, which deliver customers right inside Butchart’s compound.

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Wallis raises the point that Butchart Gardens often operates boating tours around Tod Inlet, with some customers likely to have used the public bus service to get to the attraction.

BC Transit provided a written response, “We consider all stops to be used by members of the public. If we have a stop on private property, we work with the property owner to understand the requirements for the stop.”

Coun. Zeb King of Central Saanich says residents who pay for the #75 bus contribute approximately $1 million towards public transit.

“Public transit is called public because it serves the needs of all residents and taxpayers and not simply the needs of a single private business. While I support increased trips to Butchart, this should mean more Bus 75 trips serving the rest of the route and not only going to and from a single privately owned and operated business,” he said, adding, “otherwise this becomes less public and more private transit.”

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Feb. 27, 2020 to reflect accurate information about the bus stop and to add comment from The Butchart Gardens.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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The sign barring non-customers to the bus stop. (Submitted by Matt Wallis)

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