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Editorial: We have to build a better bus network

We’d like to see routes within Cowichan improve to at least once per hour
Improved connections should be made from Victoria through to the Nanaimo-North Cowichan Express route. (Citizen file photo)

Right now, the idea of getting older and having to give up your driver’s licence is frightening.

So is the idea of becoming disabled in some fashion and no longer being able to drive as a result. Or simply not having enough money to shell out for initial investment, upkeep, insurance and gas. Because while we have definitely seen some improvements in recent years, our public transit system inside the Cowichan Valley still needs major improvements and our public transit connecting the Cowichan Valley to the rest of Vancouver Island and beyond is simply pitiful.

We’ve always been a big proponent in this space of getting the rail corridor back up and running, and we remain so, but for today and in the immediate future we also need to talk buses.

Even if we do get a train going again, it will need to coordinate with a convenient and thorough bus system if we have any hope of getting people out of their individual cars.

We were pleased to see Better Island Transit make a presentation to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, about, as the group’s name suggests, improving transit between cities on Vancouver Island.

It was also encouraging to hear CVRD chair and Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone’s enthusiastic response.

“I want to say that I’m a big fan [of what you’re trying to do],” he told them at the meeting. “I would suggest you visit other local councils as well to keep reaffirming that because it’s about helping us reach our audience, which is our community. We’ll help you in any way we can.”

Right now commuter buses head from the Cowichan Valley to Victoria four times as day, but Better Island Transit would like to see that improve to every hour. They’d also like to see those times synced up with the Cowichan-Nanaimo express. We’d like to see routes within Cowichan improve to at least once per hour, if not every half hour. Weekend service is often particularly bad. People will be reluctant to make the switch if they have to wait long periods of time.

It’s undoubtedly a chicken and egg scenario where more riders will mean more frequent service, but there needs to be more frequent service to get more riders.

It is our hope that our aging population demands better. Better than to see their lives shrink down to a few city blocks or even their own home. Better than to not be able to visit friends and family in other communities, sometimes less than an hour away by motor vehicle, because if you don’t own your own, you’re pretty much out of luck. Better than to be stuck.