Shorter wait times on a Vancouver Island University bus route are coming in January after the Regional District of Nanaimo board gave the green light to expanded transit service Tuesday night.
Regional district directors approved a 5,000-hour annual conventional transit expansion at their Tuesday board meeting, following a transit select committee recommendation with hours going to Route 40, VIU Express. A pair of compressed natural gas buses are on order as part of the expansion.
Currently, buses come between every eight to 20 minutes during the morning rush (between 7 and 9 a.m.), 12 to 22 minutes midday (between 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and from 31 to 38 minutes during the evening, according to an RDN staff report. The 5,000 hour expansion, being implemented in January, will decrease wait times in the morning to every 10 minutes, every 15 minutes for midday and every 30 minutes in the evening.
A regional district transit future report from 2014 listed better service to VIU as a priority in the short to medium term. Discussions with the City of Nanaimo have revealed overcrowding on Route 40 buses and in addition, the report notes there is development and growth occurring in the Bowen Road area, a prominent artery along the route.
Avery Bonner, VIU Students’ Union director of external relations, said the expansion is welcome and there is always a need for better transit.
“It’s not only up to the university, it’s all around Nanaimo and the regional district because students need to get to and from their homes and sometimes that can be pretty far from the university. So there’s always a need for increased hours in the transit system to get students where they need to be.”
Another option under consideration for transit hour allocation was for a route to the Duke Point ferry terminal, but it was taken off the table following a transit select committee meeting in March.
Bill McKay, Nanaimo Mayor and RDN director, was among those voting against that measure and said it didn’t make sense to him.
“We’d made it very clear to our staff and to B.C. Transit that we wanted to explore using community shuttle type service on that run because in Nanaimo, it appears the only kind of bus we understand is 40-feet long and holds 45 passengers,” said McKay. “If you’re going to build a business out to Duke Point, you’re going to run a 45-foot bus around in circles all day long, it doesn’t make any sense, particularly if you’re trying to build the business.
“So we’d asked them to look at a community shuttle-style bus or a smaller bus and the next thing we knew, we were being informed … that they’d ordered two 45-foot buses and so I couldn’t vote in favour of that, particularly when I’d made it very clear my support was based on a community shuttle-type service.”
Money in the 2018 RDN budget has been set aside for the expansion.