by Michael McLellan
Is our current transit system attracting new ridership or is it failing the Comox Valley due to its lack of service? It does not run any later than 9:20 PM from Cliff and Fourth – and this means that many people are unable to get home from their jobs. The articles that were previously written in the local newspaper made a lot of transit riders concerned that the transit system was getting cuts that would impact the users as well as the system.
I decided that I needed to get people who ride the transit buses to come with me to talk to the Courtenay City Council about transit and how important it is, especially for people with diversabilities. Here is a clip from a recent article in the Comox Valley Record on June 18, 2014:
Motorists might only require 15 minutes to reach their destination, but transit users, especially those with a diversability at times need an hour or more to get around the Comox Valley, Michael McLellan told Courtenay council last month.
“I am a person with a diversability who takes transit at least six days a week,” said McLellan, a visually-impaired resident who considers transit an essential service. “It took us a long time to build up our transit system to where it is today. I feel it is majorly important to continue to improve the transit system in order to keep the level of ridership high.”
BC Transit officials spoke about the final phases of a Comox Valley Transit Future Plan last week at council and at regional district committee of the whole. The 25-year plan identifies key corridors and considers other factors such as the physical benefits of walking to and from a bus stop. It also notes that motorists spend $8,000 to $14,000 per year to run a vehicle while transit users fork out $635 a year to take the bus.
Courtenay Coun. Starr Winchester feels Valley transit can be delivered more efficiently without yearly tax hikes. Year after year, she has advocated for smaller buses.
“It’s a huge issue for Courtenay residents,” she said. “I’ve lived here 64 years. I’ve never seen a full bus.”
McLellan agrees buses could be smaller than currently used but larger than handyDART vehicles.
Daniel Pizarro, senior regional transit manager at BC Transit, said the cost of a smaller, light duty bus is less expensive than running a larger bus.
“We hope through this process you see a mixed fleet,” he told council.
The CVRD would like to put more people on local buses. Michael Zbarsky, manager of transit and sustainability, notes boardings per hour are a little below that of peer communities.
The goal of the Future Plan is to increase ridership in a cost-effective manner, and to align with the region’s town centres.
My plan now is to invite all the Courtenay City Councillors to take the transit bus with me and learn about the schedule and how the transit system works today. We will also be talking about how it could be better in the future.
The goal is to accommodate all the ridership in the Comox Valley especially people who will never be able to drive.