This September, Ladysmith’s trolley system will be replaced by two community buses that will provide transportation within town and also south to Duncan and the rest of the Cowichan Valley.
That’s the news representatives from the Government of British Columbia, the Town of Ladysmith, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and BC Transit brought to Ladysmith Monday afternoon.
During a press conference Jan. 14 at Aggie Hall, they announced that BC Transit services are coming to Ladysmith in the fall of 2013. As Ladysmith joins the Cowichan Valley Regional Transit System, local transit in Ladysmith will replace the existing trolley service with two 20-passenger community buses and provide 3,000 service hours per year. An additional 1,100 annual service hours will also be included in the expansion to connect Ladysmith with Chemainus and the rest of the Cowichan Valley Regional Transit System.
The town will keep one trolley, and it will continue to play a role in community celebrations such as the Festival of Lights.
This announcement is a long time coming for Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins, who is also chair of the CVRD.
Two and a half years ago, the Cowichan Division of Family Practice approached the CVRD to say that transportation needed to be improved so that residents could make it to dialysis appointments and other health services, he explained.
“There are lots of reasons for transit, but if it allows our citizens better access to health services, it is a good thing,” said Hutchins. “It’s 11 years since Ladysmith first asked to be part of BC Transit. Eleven years ago, we were the largest community in B.C. not to have BC Transit, and yesterday, we were the largest community B.C. not to have BC Transit.”
In a news release, Hutchins also pointed out that the town looks forward to future partnerships with the Nanaimo Regional District to establish inter-regional transit service to the north.
The arrival of BC Transit in Ladysmith comes following a comprehensive public consultation process to develop a 25-year Transit Future Plan for the region. Adding Ladysmith to the regional transit system was a key recommendation of the plan.
“It’s a growing and vibrant community, and people need more options,” said Parksville-Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon. “It’s going to be very much a flexible service to meet the needs of the community. It’s a good service, it’s a needed service, and I’m glad we’re moving forward.”
BC Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha thanked the local, regional and provincial governments for making this happen.
“Transit doesn’t happen without partnerships,” he said. “Transit is very important to any community, it really is. We keep saying at BC Transit that our goal is to connect people and communities to sustainable futures. It’s also helping the economy by getting people out of their vehicles.”
Acahdinha unveiled a map of conceptual routes within Ladysmith and connecting Ladysmith to Duncan through Chemainus.
“This is about connecting the whole region, and we’re very, very excited about that,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. One of the things we need to do now, working with the regional district and working with the folks here in Ladysmith, is work out the details of the schedule. That’s the work that needs to happen between now and this fall so that we can come out to the public and also get the public’s feedback and support in terms of the schedules and the service we’re going to be providing. This also requires the support of the public and the community here, and this is a very strong community. They’ve been asking for 11 years, and we want to make sure from a public perspective that we get their input into what this service is going to look like as well.”
Following the announcement, some of those in attendance had a chance to take a BC Transit ARBOC bus and see the proposed route.
More information about the Cowichan Valley Regional Transit System can be found online.