Beginning Jan. 2, residents of the Tsawout First Nation will see expanded bus service that will make journeys to Sidney and the Saanichton Exchange shorter and safer.
The new route (82 Saanichton/Sidney via Stautw) will run along Stautw Road, turn on Jimmy Road, then onto Mt. Newton Cross Road. Four new bus stops will also be built.
In an email, Mavis Underwood, a councillor with the Tsawout First Nation, said the service extension “was greeted with relief and a sense of encouragement” after years of work.
She said that she has been petitioning BC Transit to extend service since the early 1980s, when she was an employee of the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board, because adult learners attending Camosun College would have to walk, hitchhike, or carpool in bad weather. That made it hard for them to complete their classes in winter.
“First Nations communities were not being surveyed in those days to assist in developing routes as they were not part of the municipal registry and BC Transit determined that there was no need or ridership in these areas.”
Because of this, the bus used to bypass the reserve entirely. Now, Route 81 stops at the Tsawout administration building, which still leaves some residents to walk long distances back to their homes with narrow shoulders, no sidewalks and ice and snow in the winter. Underwood said this made it difficult for parents with young children as well as teens who needed to get to school, work, sports or recreation.
Underwood also said that the elderly also wanted to access the bus, but feared encounters with traffic on the dark roadways.
More recently, she and other Central Saanich residents presented to the BC Transit Commission with Central Saanich District Councillor Zeb King to lobby for this extension. It was announced in June, though the final locations of the bus stops were only determined on Tuesday. Underwood said she was happy to work with Central Saanich and appreciated the consideration of BC Transit.
King said there would be multiple trips (two, as it turns out, according to BC Transit) per day, which is “not ideal.” King added some people would have an easier time getting to and from work or school.
A formal recognition ceremony will occur Tues., Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Tsawout First Nation Administration Building (7728 Tetayut Rd.) where people can ride the new route.