Nanaimo school district could axe a bus route and extend ride times for its northernmost students while improving service for the south.
The school district has released results of its first bus route review with four proposals for change next September.
A bus route review, triggered by a new transportation policy, will happen every year and uses criteria like ridership numbers, lighting and public transportation to help guide recommendations on the provision of busing. All routes were considered for the inaugural review, but the next is expected to look at only selected runs, such as ones where staff know data has changed or eligible ridership has dipped 50 per cent. The community can also request a review.
At a business committee meeting Wednesday, Pete Sabo, district director of planning and operations, said the idea is to have a dynamic transportation program that can shift and change with the needs of the district.
Recommended changes for September are to eliminate service for Dover Bay secondary students catching the bus on Hammond Bay Road, with staff pointing out there are 12 registered, eligible riders, safe walk conditions and available public transit. Students will be able to access partial funding to cover costs of transportation, the report says.
It also recommends combining bus routes out of Lantzville, including two routes to Seaview and another two to Dover Bay.
Transportation supervisor Dave Prevost said it’s something the district should do because it’s efficient and it would transport the same number of students. Half the riders would see a “slightly longer” bus ride and Dover Bay students would be dropped off 10 minutes earlier in the morning and picked up 10 minutes later in the afternoon, which Prevost called the largest adverse effect.
South of Nanaimo, students could see a boost in service. Bus routes 11 and 15, from the Cassidy and Yellow Point areas, drop off students about an hour before school starts at Ladysmith Secondary, and the district has received complaints.
With redesigned routes, students are expected to see better timing, such as being picked up later in the morning and dropped off closer to bell times, picked up sooner after bell times in the afternoon, and wherever possible, the ride wll be shortened, according to Sabo, who said the details are not ready yet. Routes 8, 11, 12, 15 and 17 would all be redesigned.
Superintendent John Blain said shifts and changes for recommendations one, two and three – regarding Hammond Bay and Lantzville – lead the district into supporting improvements in item four, the service from Cassidy and Yellow Point to Ladysmith Secondary.
“It’s shifting just the assignments and being flexible for the needs of the day,” he said.
Trustee Jamie Brennan said staff has taken a good look at the territory and considered the potential danger and hopefully safety of the various routes and has come up with a good report with some solid recommendations.
Stephanie Higginson, trustee, said she appreciates “that we now have the ability to not just say, well this is a cut-off line, you are 4.8 kilometres, but actually look at safety situations and issues and whether there’s accessible other forms of transportation.”
Trustees recommended at a business committee Wednesday that the school board receive the report and, in a separate motion, they also supported continuing bus service from Davis Road to North Oyster Elementary. The route was grandfathered into the system with a 2021 expiry date after the closure of École Davis Road, but according to Blain, the Ministry of Education has brought forward a transportation fund, enrolment has increased and there’s stability and the district is able to support the route.
PAC presidents for Ladysmith and Dover secondary schools could not be reached for comment. The review can be found at goo.gl/cnCKvg.