RDN Transit’s Route 40, VIU Express, sees 45 per cent of the system’s ridership, a consultant noted, as the regional district continues to work on a transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)

RDN Transit’s Route 40, VIU Express, sees 45 per cent of the system’s ridership, a consultant noted, as the regional district continues to work on a transit redevelopment strategy. (News Bulletin file)

RDN’s busiest bus route pressed by COVID-19 passenger limits

Consultant reports on RDN Transit ridership, intersections that put buses behind schedule

Despite limitations caused by COVID-19, RDN Transit has seen near-maximum ridership during the pandemic, say officials.

The Regional District of Nanaimo is currently engaging the public on its transit redevelopment strategy, assisted by Watt Consulting Group. At a June 24 redevelopment plan sub-committee meeting, Tania Wegwitz, Watt Consulting transit and regional lead, updated committee members on the project.

According to Wegwitz’s presentation, January-March 2020 daily ridership peaked at more than 1,200 riders on weekdays and while measures such as passenger limits were put in place due to COVID-19, weekday ridership peaked at 800 this past January-February. The consultant said that ridership during both time periods was examined to “get a sense of what are the differences and questioning why.”

“You can see those peaks still have been there, but the shape of them is quite different in terms of how people have been getting around and that just aligns with everything else that we’re seeing in terms of impacts of changes to schools during some of this time period, as well as people working from home,” said Wegwitz.

Daniel Pearce, the regional district’s general manager of transportation and emergency services, said RDN Transit has experienced higher ridership numbers than transit systems in some other areas.

“We’re pushing upwards of 70 per cent, but we are seeing on a regular basis having that 35-passenger limit still in effect, is pushing us on some of our more frequent routes like the [VIU Express],” he said. “So I think that’s just an interesting thing to see, even during COVID times, we’re still seeing those frequent routes … those are still being pressed to really the max of what their limits are at the moment.”

Wegwitz also said VIU Route 40, the system’s only frequent transit line, was the “workhorse” of RDN Transit’s system seeing 45 per cent of ridership, which she told the News Bulletin amounted to approximately 5,000 riders on average for weekdays between January and March 2020.

“You’ve invested in that route, you’ve set it up to be a success and I think it’s a good way of showing you that when you invest and put that frequency in place and you’ve got a direct route that’s on a really good alignment, you are realizing that ridership,” Wegwitz told committee members.

Feedback was also gathered from staff on the worst transit intersections, where buses tended to lose time, said Wegwitz. Bowen Road-old Island Highway, Aulds-Hammond Bay, Bowen-Northfield, Rosstown-Bowen and Norwell-old Island Highway intersections were mentioned.

Busing to Duke Point ferry terminal was offered temporarily early in the pandemic, due to Departure Bay terminal service reduction. That route, along with Rutherford and Lost Lake roads were areas people wanted to see busing, Wegwitz told the sub-committee.

Public engagement continues until mid-July and will centre on how to make transit better, the consultant said in an e-mail.

Information will be used to form strategy recommendations and are slated to go again before the public for a second round of consultation in the early fall, she said.

To provide feedback, or complete the survey, visit www.getinvolved.rdn.ca/trs.

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