Ladysmith council would like to see bus link to Nanaimo

After reviewing Cowichan Valley Region Transit Future Plan, councillors ask to see timing of link to Nanaimo moved ahead.

Ladysmith councillors are hoping BC Transit and the Cowichan Valley Regional District will look into offering bus service into Nanaimo in the next five years.

Ladysmith council reviewed the Cowichan Valley Region Transit Future Plan Sept. 4. The plan was developed by BC Transit in partnership with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and approved by the CVRD board of directors in March.

The plan envisions the region’s transit network 25 years from now and describes what services, infrastructure and investments are needed to get there.

“The plan was designed to create a stronger link between local planning goals, land use and transit planning, support the key initiatives of BC Transit’s Strategic Plan and support the Provincial Transit Plan,” Manuel Achadinha, president and CEO of BC Transit, wrote in a letter to council that accompanied the report.

The plan calls for the introduction of inter-regional service to Nanaimo as a medium-term priority to be implemented in the next six to 15 years, and councillors want to see that moved ahead.

The vision of the Cowichan Valley Region Transit Future Plan is a regional transit system that “connects people and communities through cost-effective, convenient, safe and accessible transit services.” The goals are to make transit an attractive transportation alternative to the private vehicle, reduce the community’s impact on the environment and make the transit system more efficient.

Network priorities in the short term for the next five years include introducing transit service within Ladysmith and Electoral Area G, improving the frequency of weekday service, improving evening and weekend service, and improving the inter-regional service to Victoria. Introducing transit service in Ladysmith would entail establishing a Ladysmith transit terminal and transit stops.

Looking ahead in the next six to 15 years, the Future Transit Plan calls for reconfiguring Duncan and North Cowichan transit services to introduce an urban circulator service and create more direct neighbourhood routes; reconfiguring South Cowichan transit services; introducing inter-regional service to Nanaimo; continuing to enhance inter-regional service to Victoria and extending the hours of operation on the Local Transit Network. The plan calls for improving Ladysmith services by enhancing neighbourhood services within the town,  introducing direct service between Duncan and Ladysmith and studying the feasibility of paratransit services in North Oyster.

In the long term, service implementations called for 15-plus years from now include expanding service to new service areas in South Cowichan, North Cowichan, Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan to support future development; increasing regional and neighbourhood service frequency and span of service over time to support increased population densities in town and village centres; and continuing to enhance inter-regional service to Nanaimo and Victoria.

Councillors voted unanimously to send a letter to BC Transit requesting a revision to change the implementation of an inter-regional service to Nanaimo from medium-term to short-term so that it begins in the next five years.

“I’m kind of boggled by the fact that we’re getting direct feedback from people in the local area that they would prefer a north route in a timely matter, but they don’t seem to have taken that into account,” said Coun. Steve Arnett.

Coun. Jillian Dashwood was in favour of  letting BC Transit know the town is interested in a link to Nanaimo to give youth a chance to take transit to university and to make other connections for local residents.

“I think it’s really important they know we are supportive of that,” she said. “I think six to 15 years doesn’t help our community grow in a sustainable way if people have to leave town. If we were to move some of that sort of stuff forward, our kids can stay here, and it makes it much more sustainable.”