BC Transit planning 2 possible routes.

Great news for transit riders, walkers, cyclists, shoppers, swimmers and travellers!

At the June 12 ACRD meeting (agenda and documents here), the Board approved a request by BC Transit to proceed with phase two of the “ACRD Electoral Area Transit Feasibility Study”.

What’s that you ask?! It’s two potential new bus routes!

One route would connect Sproat Lake (Hwy 4/Westbay) or Tseshaht Market to Pacific Rim Shopping Centre.

The Population Density map for the Alberni Valley
Option including all the way to WestBay/Sproat Lake Park
Option only to Tseshaht Market

A second route would create a loop using Beaver Creek road and serving McLean Mill and Cherry Creek Road.

Beaver Creek road and Cherry Creek loop

Both routes would originate from the stop beside Walmart at the Pacific Rim Shopping Centre.

Connecting to existing City buses.

The new routes would parallel City routes in some places potentially providing added frequency along Highway 4 and Beaver Creek road in particular.

Existing City service

These are still preliminary ideas so it is difficult to say how they would mesh with the existing City system but this service would definitely provide a more direct link to City residents along Highway 4 to get to the Pacific Rim Shopping Centre as well as connecting to other routes.

Phase II which BC Transit will now undertake will include public and stakeholder input on all the options.

Service based strongly on young, and senior, population.

The report says:

The propensity to use transit varies with age and income, and key changes in these variables are likely to have significant impacts on the future of transit. Specific age groups, such as those under 19 or over 75 are more likely to rely on transit.

Within the Study Area, the annual average income is approximately $32,000 and approximately 35% of the population is over the age of 55, with nearly 10% of the population over the age of 75.

Research indicates that older seniors (75+) make less trips overall compared to other age groups, however tend to be very dependent on transit.

Recent data suggests that seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population, a trend that will be more prominent in areas with an existing high proportion of seniors.

I looked at the 2016 Stats Canada data and it shows that Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Sproat Lake all have nearly identical 23% of people 65 or over. About 28% of the population were between 0-15 years of age in 2016 in all three areas.

They expect low ridership due to the small population size however, a potential partnership with SD70 could increase the impact of the service dramatically and improve service for people going to school (children and adults).

Better service for Tseshaht and Hupacasath reserves.

Even though both reserves are within or directly adjacent the City, both new routes will be a big benefit for people on both Tseshaht and Hupacasath main reserves as the existing City service only serves the edge of each. These new routes would put bus service right through Tseshaht on highway 4 and Hupacasath on Beaver Creek road.

Potential for links east and west.

This expansion into the outlying areas in Port Alberni isn’t the only exciting thing happening with transit.

The ACRD also approved service that would link Ucluelet and Tofino. This will be a huge benefit for folks and businesses in those communities for reducing GhG emissions and encouraging more active living in an already very active place!

These expansions also open the door to discussion of a link between the Alberni and Regional District of Nanaimo services. This was mentioned in the Cathedral Grove report during consultations. Those consultations continue later this month. A connection between the east island and Port Alberni would benefit seniors for doctors appointments, shoppers looking for an alternative to Woodgrove, commuters, and tourists going in all directions. In fact, with this new service and a link between Nanaimo and Port Alberni, a traveller (or current local hitchhiker) could get from the Ferry in Nanaimo to West bay on Sproat Lake for under $10.

That is a huge savings for all manners of people and gets people out of their cars safely and off the side of the road.

There is also a Transit related Committee of the Whole Meeting on July 15. I hope to attend to see what is up and provide some encouragement you should come too!

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