The Regional District of Nanaimo thinks it is less than a year away from providing a long-awaited public transit link between the Nanaimo region and Cowichan Valley.
The RDN has endorsed bus service between the two districts and on Thursday is expected to consider motions related to reallocation of transit hours and the purchase of vehicles from B.C. Transit, with the ultimate goal of shuttling commuters between the two regions beginning March 2022.
According to a staff report, RDN Transit has a total of 5,300 unallocated transit hours – 2,500 from a September expansion delayed by COVID-19 and 2,800 from moving Prideaux Street transit exchange to Front Street – which could go toward Cowichan Valley Regional District-RDN service.
RDN board chairperson Tyler Brown said the recommendations are in line with board direction and the transit future plan.
“The board remains committed to increasing transit coverage both between communities that we know populations travel between and also within the community itself,” said Brown.
Three “heavy-duty buses” will be required, but the RDN already has one ordered as part of the delayed September expansion, according to the report. RDN Transit can request B.C. Transit provide the two other buses, with B.C. Transit endeavouring to purchase compressed natural gas vehicles, although other options may be provided until CNG buses can be purchased, according to the report.
“CNG is the preferred bus right now of the RDN, but ultimately it’s B.C. Transit’s call,” said Brown.
Brown said he and Aaron Stone, Ladysmith mayor and CVRD board chairperson, are in favour of providing busing between their regions.
“We’re both huge advocates for increased transit and one area identified by both of us is how do we better connect the regions in absence of a provincial Vancouver Island transit strategy,” Brown said. “That was a goal and I’m optimistic here we’ll see something between the two regional districts that will help folks move between systems and then get to where they want to go.”
If the transit select committee gives approval, the recommendations will be forwarded to the board for its May 25 meeting. The steps after that would include asking B.C. Transit to commit to the vehicles and then working on cost-sharing and scheduling agreements between the regional districts.
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