This letter was sent to the ACRD Board on May 15.
This is an update, of sorts, to this post about the potential service.
Dear ACRD Board,
I write this as a daily commuter and general user of public transit for most of the past 20 years in Qualicum, Parksville, Nanaimo, and Victoria. There are a lot of preconceived notions about buses that people have when a route is considered especially in a place that has never seen bus service. I hope this letter can help.
If you ride a bus in Nanaimo you will see everyone rides. Students, workers, seniors heading to an appointment, someone heading to their friends house, someone trying to get further in their travels, a kid going to the pool or the movies with friends, or someone taking their bike or skateboard or scooter to their favourite trail or park. Parents bringing a child to the clinic. People going to the store. People going home. People talking, reading a book, snoozing, or just staring out the window.
In 20 years I have seen strangers talk to strangers. I have seen people who clearly can’t afford a car sitting and chatting with people who clearly choose not to own a car (or a second car). I have even seen, and had, friendships develop with people I only see on the bus. I have never felt or been threatened on a bus. Bus drivers don’t transport thieves or tolerate people on their bus who are dangerous to others.
I have seen a bus driver call an ambulance for a senior. I see people helping each other with their groceries, or a heavy suitcase, or getting a stroller or wheelchair on the bus. I have watched kids give their seat up to an elder.
Buses are freedom for many people. Buses can teach you about your community and yourself.
Yes, bus service changes communities and it also takes time for buses to establish themselves. They need to go where people live.
A bus to Sproat Lake and Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek will be empty at the start. Guaranteed. I was on the first bus that went between Qualicum Beach and Woodgrove mall. For the first 2 years I was often alone getting on the first stop in Qualicum and by the time we got to Woodgrove there were maybe ten more.
12 years later, the bus runs twice as often and is full enough that people have to stand and there is always at least one or often two bikes in the rack on the front. It takes time for people to change habits and try new things.
Bus service requires patience and commitment, not just for riders, but especially for the decision makers.
Buses bring neighbours together that normally only see each other passing in a car. They are a common place, a touchstone, a conversation starter, a relationship starter. Buses are a great way to see and appreciate all a community has to offer.
I hope we see more people on the bus and more buses, all over Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley. It will help build a stronger community.
P.S.(Not in the original letter)
When my son found out about the bus route he was excited that he might be able to go visit his friend, on his own, at the lake. And his other friend lives along the way! Cool! Said, he. Cool, indeed. 🙂
P.P.S. My letter was more about the broad impacts and benefits of public transit, but specifically, I am sure there are many folks on the Tseshaht First Nation reserve outside City limits and at Hupacasath along River Road and Highway 4 who would find use from the increased service. I am surprised though that the proposed service does not go through more populated areas like Hector Road, Faber, Stirling Arm and McCoy. But this is still a good first step. The Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek route go through much more populated areas and could be of great use in time.