Director seeks support for transit on Gabriola

NANAIMO – Howard Houle, Area B director, has set the wheels in motion for continued transit service on Gabriola Island.

The wheels are in motion for continued transit service on Gabriola Island.

Money for Gabriola’s Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express, a community bus pilot project paid for through the federal gas tax, is set to expire June 2016 and options are being sought on how to continue the service.

Howard Houle, Regional District of Nanaimo Area B director, proposed a motion at the regional district’s June committee of the whole meeting, seeking a report that would include information on funding.

B.C. Transit isn’t currently an option, according to Houle.

“I have checked with B.C. Transit and there are no service hours available,” he said. “Now, what service hours mean is that you get a buy-in from transit, so they pay part of the bill. We’re not able to get those hours, so the only way to continue to build the service, until there are hours available, is to fund it through the local tax base.”

Houle said Gabriola residents would have to give approval via a referendum, which he anticipates will take place in November.

In the two years since the community bus service began in June 2013, it has carried 24,500 passengers.

Houle said the service has been beneficial, with more runs added in the summer to accommodate visitors.

Fay Weller, community bus spokesperson, is in favour of raising taxes to pay for the bus. She also said the service is beneficial.

“Now the kids just can rely on [the bus] and then they can go to activities after school and not have to come back on the school bus, so it makes a difference to a lot of them. It’s making a difference to a lot of the businesses because people are able to come in and go into the village using [the bus].

“I think [discontinuation] would be really detrimental because it provides people with an opportunity to not have to always be in their car,” said Weller.

The regional district board is expected to consider the motion at its regular meeting tonight.