NANAIMO — Despite overwhelming support from the community, transit riders will have to wait and see if they'll be able to ride the bus to Duke Point.
The Regional District of Nanaimo board deferred approving a 5,000 hour transit expansion to the Duke Point area in their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 3 and sent it back to staff for more options.
Daniel Pearce, director of transportation and emergency services with the RDN, told NanaimoNewsNOW his staff recommended the Board approve the expansion since it would enable sustainable transit access to residents and employees who work in Duke Point.
“Ultimately (the Board) couldn't decide if that service was best utilized to Duke Point or elsewhere within the regional service,” Pearce said.
Back in 1997, the RDN underwent a three-month trial to Duke Point but it was discontinued due to low ridership. Pearce said the history of the route “definitely could have been a piece” of the decision to defer the expansion.
He explained while ridership was low back in 1997, it doesn't mean the ridership will continue to be low since travel patterns have changed and the area has expanded. The staff report also showed it takes longer than three months for transit routes to become viable since riders have to change their habits and knowledge of the bus line has to spread.
When it was announced several weeks before about the proposed bus line, online response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
“We definitely heard loud and clear that people were excited about this potential service...I believe the Board also received a lot of that information. We did definitely hear a lot of positive feedback and we did not receive to date any negative phone calls or communication saying they did not want to see that service,” Pearce said.
The areas of Nanaimo, Lantzville and both the Cedar and Jingle Pot electoral areas would pay for the roughly $427,000 transit expansion. Pearce said the City of Nanaimo would field most of the cost.
Of the seven board members who voted to defer the expansion, five were Nanaimo City councillors: coun. Jim Kipp, Bill Yoachim, Jerry Hong, Gord Fuller and Bill Bestwick.
Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay and Nanaimo coun. Ian Thorpe, as well as one other, voted against deferring the decision back to RDN staff.
Pearce said his staff will now analyze other options and bring them back to the board.
The rollout to Duke Point was intended to happen in January 2018, but Pearce said the deadline wasn't possible given how much goes into a transit expansion.
“We'll work with (BC Transit and partners) to implement something as soon as our board will ultimately allow,” he said.
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