Ladysmith looks into joining CVRD transit

As the trolley service is questioned, the Town of Ladysmith is looking into joining BC Transit.

As the expenses of operating the trolley service are questioned in the media and at council meetings, the Town of Ladysmith is looking into joining BC Transit.

Amid questions by the public and councillors about the costs of operating the trolley service during recent council meetings, the Town of Ladysmith is looking into joining BC Transit.

Ladysmith council received a report from the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) notifying the town of the opportunity to integrate Ladysmith into the CVRD Regional Transit Service, beginning in March 2013, during its government services committee meeting Feb. 20.

“This is about 12 years we’ve been waiting for an opportunity to be part of BC Transit,” said Mayor Rob Hutchins. “If you recall, in 2001, the town first indicated interest in being part of BC Transit, and there was no opportunity until 2007. The door opened, but the door closed again, and we were told possibly 2011. We were not anticipating this; it came out of the blue a couple of weeks ago to the CVRD transit committee.”

If the Town of Ladysmith is interested in joining the CVRD transit service, formal notification must be received in time for the CVRD to provide confirmation to BC Transit before May 31.

The total annual CVRD cost of the 4,200 hours for the integration of the Ladysmith service is approximately $275,000 according to the report from Jim Wakeham, the CVRD’s manager of facility, fleet and transit management. This amount does not include a reduction for the fare revenue that would be collected, nor does it include any start-up and maintenance costs associated with the new service, he noted.

The Town of Ladysmith is not a partner in the CVRD Transit function but has been involved in the CVRD Future Transit Plan in the past year, with residents attending various open houses, and its preliminary service expectations levels are included in the plan, explained Wakeham.

Ladysmith council has asked town staff to review the implications of joining the CVRD Transit Service and bring a report back to council.

Coun. Jill Dashwood looks forward to hearing back from town staff.

“We had a good discussion about this at the trolley meeting the other day,” she said. “There are some really exciting components such as Handidart, and it will give an opportunity to bring people from Saltair and Chemainus to shop in Ladysmith — [those are] some of the good things.”

Coun. Gord Horth was cautious.

“I think this takes us further down the path to broader-based transit, but I think there are still issues around ridership,” he said.

During the meeting, Rob Johnson asked if the town is seriously looking at a transit route toward Nanaimo instead of the CVRD.

“When I was on council, I believe we said the cost would be almost the same, but the service and the desirability for the citizens would probably be much more significant for transit in Nanaimo, especially if we got two or three vehicles running around every 20 minutes or so,” he said.

Hutchins explained that the offer by BC Transit is to the CVRD to expand services.

Johnson asked if council has pursued opportunities with the Regional District of Nanaimo and said he would appreciate if the town did look into service to Nanaimo.

During the same meeting, council received the January Trolley Bus Activity Report.

It showed that 1,066 people used the trolley in January, with a daily average ridership of 41. The trolley used 1,987 litres of fuel, and fare revenue for the month was $800.96.