New bus routes, including to a new rapid bus route, are being proposed as a Regional District of Nanaimo committee works on changing its transit plan with an eye to the future.
The first phase of consultation for the RDN transit redevelopment strategy concluded in mid July and Tania Wegwitz of Watt Consulting Group, which assisted with engagement, gave a report to the plan sub-committee at a Sept. 10 meeting.
One of the suggestions is to change the current Route 1 Country Club/Downtown to a rapid bus with limited stops from north to south Nanaimo, evolving from the current Route 50 Woodgrove/Downtown. Changing routes servicing the south Nanaimo and Cedar areas are also being considered.
As the proposed rapid bus would extend to Southgate mall, it offers an opportunity to restructure routes, the consultant said.
“Your existing Route 8 would stay the same and serve Cedar,” said Wegwitz. “However, your existing [Cinnabar/Downtown route] would have the opportunity to terminate and transfer at Southgate, either to very frequent service … or you’d have an opportunity for direct transfer over to VIU and other destinations in that direction.”
She said restructuring routes could create an opportunity to have service to Duke Point ferry “as well as on-demand service to other areas in town in the Cinnabar area.”
Establishment of a frequent transit route (Route 3) from Woodgrove mall to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is also proposed. The current Route 30 servicing the hospital has the second-highest ridership in the system, said Wegwitz, and suggested changes “improve the directness of the existing Route 30 and connects through areas of population and employment density.”
“We’d be going from Woodgrove to Country Club through the hospital area, which of course, has not only the hospital itself, but all the other supporting services and employment that’s around there as well as a lot of density and then would connect to downtown,” said Wegwitz.
Daniel Pearce, RDN general manager of transportation and emergency services, said that other transit-related components are also being examined.
“We broke this into two pieces for the project: develop the network and then infrastructure…” he said. “Another side project is the facility master plan as well to look at where we are now and where we’re going in the future; can we grow with the size of our fleet? Then we’re also looking at the fare structure and all those pieces.”
According to the report, the consultation website saw 527 visitors and 295 surveys were completed. Common themes were requests for greater bus frequency and buses starting earlier and running later.
Prior to declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, 34.3 per cent of respondents said they didn’t use transit and that number rose to 45.5 per cent during the pandemic. Seven per cent of respondents said they used transit daily pre-COVID-19, and that decreased to 5.4 per cent daily during the pandemic.
The next phase of consultation, anticipated to begin in October, will “refine” the strategy and final report is expected in November.
To view the report, go to www.rdn.bc.ca/agendas-minutes-videos and click on the link for the Sept. 10 transit redevelopment plan sub-committee.
For more information, go to www.getinvolved.rdn.ca/trs.