Ladysmith interested in joining CVRD transit

The Town of Ladysmith is taking the first step to joining the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s transit service.

The Town of Ladysmith is taking the first step to joining the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s regional transit network.

Earlier this month, council voted to respond to the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD)’s offer to join the CVRD Transit Service in 2013 stating that “the Town of Ladysmith is very interested in joining the CVRD Transit Service Function and wish for the CVRD board to approve Ladysmith as a new Transit service partner.”

The town is requesting that the CVRD Transit Committee consider requesting that BC Transit consider using Ladysmith as a pilot area for the use of alternative fueled vehicles. As well, the town is requesting that the committee consider using the Ladysmith public works yard as a satellite yard for the storage and potentially the repair of vehicles.

Council also directed town staff to transition the existing trolley fleet to one single trolley for use during special events only.

The CVRD Transit Committee has invited Ladysmith to join the CVRD Regional Transit Function, and this would allow the expansion of CVRD transit services to Ladysmith.

To initiate this new service in the spring of 2013, BC Transit requires confirmation from the CVRD of their intention to add the Ladysmith service by the end of June, according to infrastructure services director John Manson’s report to council.

BC Transit undertook a feasibility study in early 2009 and looked at a number of options to provide service to the town, including a local community bus service in Ladysmith with possible options to connect to Saltair and Chemainus, according to Manson’s report. At the time, Ladysmith decided to purchase two trolleys and operate a local service.

The town currently provides about 3,000 annual service hours using five rotating loops and one trolley, explained Manson. This costs approximately $158,000 per year, according to his report.

The new transit proposal is derived from the CVRD’s Transit Future Plan, which was developed in early 2012.

“That plan, developed jointly by the CVRD and BC Transit, provides for a future local community shuttle service in Ladysmith in a fashion similar to the existing trolley service and is similar to the local service proposed in 2009,” Manson wrote in his report. “A connection through the Saltair area is also envisioned, connecting to the existing service in Chemainus.”

The CVRD transit plan envisions allocating two new community shuttle buses that accommodate 20-24 people each to Ladysmith.

The plan also envisions 3,040 annual running hours servicing Ladysmith’s internal road network, which is similar, if not identical, to the level of service the town’s trolley system provides, according to Manson’s report.

Additionally, the plan envisions 1,100 annual running hours of service connecting the internal road service to the existing transit service in Chemainus, and there is the possibility of adding a minor amount of handyDART service, noted Manson.

The operating costs of the new local service have been estimated at approximately $277,000, with a total cost estimated at $409,000, which includes the cost of leasing the two community shuttles at $66,000 each.

Under the provincial/CVRD cost-sharing formula, the CVRD’s share of this new service is $185,816 net of fare revenues, explained Manson. The Chemainus connection is estimated to cost $86,052 net of fare revenues, and the start-up costs are estimated to be $20,000 — for a total new cost to the CVRD of $291,868.

Should the town wish to join the CVRD transit service, the town would be allocated a share of the cost of the entire service, not just the portion that services the town. Under the current cost-sharing formula, the town’s share of the total cost of the CVRD system is estimated to be 9.71 per cent, according to Manson.

For 2012, the current CVRD tax requisition for the existing transit services is $1,576,745, explained Manson. A number of service cost increases are already known for 2013, which total $131,374. The addition of the Ladysmith/Chemainus connector service of $291,868 brings the total revised estimated 2013 requisition to $1,999,987, with Ladysmith’s share estimated at $194,294.

“This is slightly greater than the town’s current cost of about $158,000 net of transit fare revenue,” noted Manson. “However, it should be noted that the town does not at present allocate any funds to either the replacement of the existing trolleys nor to the cost of the facilities (public works yard) for the storage of the vehicles.”

Councillors were supportive of joining the CVRD transit service.

“As I understand, we will be paying more, but we’ll be saving with staff time, etc., so it could balance out,” said Coun. Duck Paterson. “I don’t see it being any less, but it’s a better service.”

Coun. Steve Arnett supports the plan but hopes the town will look at going north to Nanaimo as well in the future.

“Overall, it’s a good value for money, and this is really a long-term plan,” he said.

While Coun. Gord Horth supports transit, he expressed concern about low ridership and about committing so much taxpayer money to this service.