Operators of Gabriola Island’s GERTIE transit system will have a new place to park buses after receiving $188,000 from the B.C. government.
Gabriola Community Bus Foundation, which runs Gabriola’s Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express, was granted $187,847 of community economic recovery infrastructure program money, the province announced, and the money will go toward converting the old fire hall on Gabriola to a bus depot, said Steven Earle, foundation spokesperson.
Earle said the foundation applied for the one-time provincial infrastructure money in late 2020. The Gabriola fire department moved into a new building several years ago and work is planned to retrofit the old station. Currently the buses are stored outdoors, with an office at the Gabriola Commons, but the foundation can’t stay there forever, he said.
“The plan is to do some renovations in there to improve the heating and lighting systems, to replace some doors and windows, to make it a little more energy efficient and we will also be installing a solar array so that we can operate the building with solar power,” Earle said to the News Bulletin.
The foundation will be required to go through a request-for-proposal process for the work and Earle said the goal is to have work completed by the end of December.
“We can actually start using the building as a terminal or a depot before all of this work is done, but definitely we want to have this work done before the end of the year,” said Earle. “We’ll be starting in the next couple of months.”
Earle said the building is in good shape and the foundation was aided by the fire department, which replaced the roof last year.
Earle and the foundation envisions the depot having capacity to accommodate greener-powered vehicles thanks to the solar array.
“Down the road for us, that might also mean recharging electric buses with solar power,” said Earle. “We don’t have an electric bus yet and it’s going to be some time before we get one, but that’s part of the deal, so we’ll also be installing a charging station.”
Both Scott Colbourne and Kees Langereis, Islands Trust Gabriola Island representatives, welcomed the news, with Langereis stating “it’s a fantastic move,” and Colbourne, also a volunteer firefighter, stating he is “thrilled.”
Vanessa Craig, Regional District of Nanaimo Gabriola Island director, expressed similar sentiments, as she said GERTIE provides an essential service, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a press release, Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, said he hopes Gabriola residents benefit from the money.
“The Gabriola community bus provides a vital service to [Gabriolans], getting people to work, school and appointments while helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Routley in the press release. “By funding this important piece of transportation infrastructure, we are providing stability to the organization and the people that rely on this service, ensuring the community is supported during the pandemic and into the future.”
The City of Nanaimo had also applied for funding through the community economic recovery infrastructure program, asking for track upgrades at Rotary Bowl stadium and a new boathouse at Loudon Park.