Opinions are mixed on the West Shore’s new RapidBus line, with some residents flagging accessibility concerns and saying it’s further proof bus service in Greater Victoria is too downtown-centric.
The 95 Blink RapidBus is set to replace the 50 Langford/Downtown route and will make fewer stops but run more frequently at peak times, with the aim of getting commuters to work quicker.
While some are supportive, others say it doesn’t address the West Shore’s needs. Langford resident Lara Forbes has two teenage children with special needs who struggle with using transit. Her eldest child usually takes Route 51, which goes from Langford to the University of Victoria, but buses run infrequently with service set to be trimmed with a new schedule coming into effect on April 10.
If those buses are full, Forbes’ eldest struggles to navigate the bus transfers she needs to make it to campus.
Forbes says that transfer involves crossing busy roads and sometimes walking long distances with the added time pressure of potentially missing the connecting bus – a problem Forbes expects will be exacerbated by the new 95 route.
“Somebody in a wheelchair can’t walk. Somebody who’s got problems with their feet like me can’t walk. Somebody who’s older can’t walk … So you’re just saying, ‘Oh well, pretend you’re a fit person who can walk,’ but that’s not the majority of the people who ride the bus.”
Forbes’ youngest opted to attend Camosun College over UVic purely because of the better transit options.
She notes the way most routes send people downtown and then splay out to various destinations throughout Saanich and the Peninsula doesn’t seem logical post-pandemic.
“Most people don’t go downtown, COVID killed downtown … We closed the office downtown and all the businesses that can work from home now do. Nobody works downtown anymore. The demand for every single bus in the entire fleet to be servicing downtown is just not logical anymore.”
Tanya Mitchell commutes downtown from Langford for her job at a medical clinic. Both the stops she uses to get on and off are being discontinued with the switch from Route 50 to 95, meaning she’ll have to travel further on foot. For her, it’s not a massive impact, but she worries about people with accessibility issues struggling.
“It feels like the West Shore gets forgotten about.”
A spokesperson for BC Transit said decisions on cutting stops were not made lightly and were done with feedback from local government partners on the West Shore.
Decisions about service levels are made by BC Transit along with the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, a body comprised of mayors from municipalities in Greater Victoria. Seven members sit on the commission (plus a student representative) but only two are from West Shore communities. One is Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and the other is Metchosin Mayor Marie-Therese Little.
BC Transit’s plan for the West Shore includes restructuring routes to move more service to growing areas like Skirt Mountain, Belmont Market, West Hills and Royal Bay.
BC Transit cited a Capital Regional District survey which found “about one-third of West Shore residents now commute within their home community,” precipitating a restructuring of West Shore bus routes.
Phase 1 of that restructuring is set to be implemented in 2024.