A decision is expected today on a proposal that would link the Nanaimo and Cowichan public transit systems.
Following a survey with close to 2,000 expressions of support, Regional District of Nanaimo’s transit select committee is scheduled to vote on whether to support the plan for regular trips between the two neighbouring regions.
The RDN, Cowichan Valley Regional District and B.C. Transit conducted a survey last December and received 1,950 responses in favour of inter-regional transit, according to an RDN staff report. The transit committee is set to vote on whether to endorse the recommendation at its meeting Thursday, Jan. 14.
The transit service, projected to be in place by September 2022, would run 53 kilometres from Village Green Mall exchange in Duncan, up Trans Canada Highway to the downtown Nanaimo bus exchange, with 15 proposed stops, said the report.
Staff are recommending service consisting of six round-trips during morning and afternoon peak hours, “at a frequency of 45 minutes,” with another round-trip midday and six round-trips on Saturday. Buses would run between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays.
Stuart McLean, RDN director and incoming transit committee chairperson, said he hopes that the recommendation receives support at the committee and board levels and leads to similar service elsewhere.
“I’m curious to see what the committee thinks of it,” said McLean. “I think there’s somewhat broad support for it. I’m hopeful of that actually because I’d like to see this happen and then I’d like to see a similar service between the [RDN] and Comox Valley Regional District.”
— Karl Yu (@KarlYuBulletin) January 14, 2021
There has been interest in transit to Duke Point ferry terminal, but combining that with the Cowichan route hasn’t been considered, said Tyler Brown, RDN board chairperson and outgoing committee chairperson. There are positives and negatives to trying to combine those routes, he said.
“It all depends on the route because if [it] meanders too far and isn’t really an efficient use of someone’s time, then they’re less likely to take it. There’s a balance there…” said Brown. “In our system there’s been far too many trade-offs for far too long because we’ve chronically underfunded it and I’m hoping we can move away from that mentality and start to fund transit as it should be funded.”
Fares haven’t been determined, but the report lists potential base fares of $5 and $10.
According to the report, 75 per cent of people surveyed resided in Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Duncan, with a majority between 25-74 years of age.
If the committee gives approval, the recommendation would go before RDN directors at their Jan. 26 board meeting.
Cowichan Valley Regional District’s community services committee gave uanimous approval to a similar recommendation at its meeting Wednesday, which will be forwarded to the CVRD board at its Jan. 27 regular meeting.
Aaron Stone, CVRD chairperson who originally conceived the inter-regional transit idea, said fine points need to be ironed out if the two governmental bodies give approval.
“Over this next phase, it’s sort of drilling down on the specifics of the stops, where they’re located, the timing of them and hoping to line them up with the local routes that feed into that spine, as well as further consultation on more of the specifics around cost-sharing,” said Stone.
He said a governance structure or co-governance agreement will also have to be developed because two regional districts are involved.
“If there are decisions to be made, increases in service, changes in routes and things like that … it’s getting down to the ‘brass tacks’ of the particulars of how the route will be managed and operated,” he said.