NANAIMO — Anyone catching a Duke Point ferry or working in the area will still have to drive there indefinitely.
A proposed bus route from Prideaux St. down to the Duke Point ferry terminal was rejected by the Regional District of Nanaimo's transit select committee in late March. It was previously recommended but sent back to RDN staff in October 2017.
A staff report showed the lengthy route would have buses meeting all but the first and last ferry of the day. It was described as the “most direct, shortest and most frequent” option providing transit to the relatively-remote location.
The route was also described as a “sustainable, predictable, low cost option” to capitalize on foot passengers and direct them to Nanaimo's downtown core. The report estimated roughly 3,500 foot passengers arrived and departed at Duke Point a week.
RDN transportation director Daniel Pearce told NanaimoNewsNOW they've “definitely heard through public consultation and daily feedback that residents do want to see service to Duke Point.”
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay was one of seven who voted against the Duke Point expansion. He'd previously voted in favour of it when it was last at the RDN table in October.
McKay said the lack of consideration for smaller, more compact buses on the route and the news two full-sized buses were already purchased is what swayed him.
“We need to get into the smaller community style shuttle buses and mix them in a combination of other equipment,” he said.
Adding 5,000 hours of transit a year, which is a directive from BC Transit and approved for the RDN's 2018 budget, is now being considered for the 40 express route to and from Vancouver Island University.
Pearce said the route, which stretches from VIU to Woodgrove Centre, is also one of their busiest.
“We're running multiple types of buses one after another at certain key times of the day due to overloading and overcrowding,” he said.
Adding two buses and 5,000 hours of transit to the route would allow service throughout the day, rather than the current system of operating at peak times.
The staff report said adding more buses is needed to maintain a reliable schedule on the route.
Transit select committee members voted to refer the VIU express bus route back to staff for further information. Only Parksville mayor Marc Lefebvre was opposed.
Pearce said he and his staff will return to the committee in May with updated and specific ridership numbers, as well as any information to help paint the picture of how crucial the lengthy route is.
Since a decision won't be made on the expansion until the end of May, Pearce said the 5,000-hour expansion won't be implemented until the end of the year, possibly even January 2019.
There is a possibility for future transit out to Duke Point. A third option, splitting a south Nanaimo bus route to go to Cedar and Duke Point, was presented but not considered.
Pearce said it's an interesting option but more public consultation needs to be done before the change is considered.
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