Transit and trolley raised many questions — Top Stories of 2012

In 2012, the viability of the Ladysmith trolley and the question of expanding transit services were hot topics.

Transit and the viability of the Ladysmith trolley were hot topics at council meetings and in letters to the editor in 2012.

In early September, Ladysmith councillors expressed hope that BC Transit and the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) will look into offering bus service into Nanaimo in the next five years instead of further down the road.

Ladysmith council reviewed the Cowichan Valley Region Transit Future Plan Sept. 4.

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 wanted to see that moved forward.

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.

Councillors voted 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.

The Town of Ladysmith took the first step to joining the CVRD’s regional transit network in June.

Council voted to respond to the 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 asked 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 requested 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 staff to transition the existing trolley fleet to one single trolley for use during special events only.

The CVRD Transit Committee’s invitation would allow the expansion of CVRD transit services to Ladysmith, beginning in the spring of 2013.

The town currently provides about 3,000 annual service hours using five rotating loops and one trolley, explained John Manson, Ladysmith’s director of infrastructure services. 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.

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 Ladysmith 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.

Council first received a report from the CVRD regarding transit in mid-Feburary. During that 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.

Running parallel to discussions of transit were discussions about the number of riders who are or are not taking the trolley.

Hoping to increase trolley ridership and provide better services to current riders, the Town of Ladysmith introduced a new trolley schedule July 2.

“We’ve just tidied up a few things; the main thing was getting more trips to Coronation Square,” said Ladysmith trolley committee chair Coun. Jillian Dashwood.

Though nothing changed regarding the trolley’s days of operation or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. timeframe, there were a few adjustments to the route.

Among the changes to the schedule is an extra run to Coronation Mall, bringing the total number to six.

As of July 2, the trolley no longer makes runs to Gill and Glen roads along Chemainus Road.

As well, the trolley does not head directly down to Transfer Beach, although it will make a stop along Transfer Beach Boulevard and Oyster Bay Drive.