New bus service planned for Sooke, West Shore

Eight new buses and an additional 20,000 of service planned to start this fall

Sooke and the West Shore can expect a boost in bus service, with eight buses and 20,000 additional service hours, starting this fall.

The move is to address the growing transit needs in the region.

In the expanded transit plan is a crosstown bus service running from West Hills in Langford to the University of Victoria and Victoria General Hospital.

“Would that be a benefit to our residents? Maybe, maybe not. It provides an option for someone who wants to drive maybe drive part of the way and just catch that bus,” said Mayor Maja Tait, who represents Sooke on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

Every community has a local transit area plan that’s developed and refreshed, taking in the changes of what’s occurring in each area and which bus connections make the most sense. Sooke is scheduled to have the local area plan developed in 2018.

“That would be good timing, because we’ll have a sense of our [official community plan], process and changes to zoning and the like,” Tait said, adding it takes about a year and a half for anything the commission does to come into effect, since buses need to be ordered, funding needs to be put in place and operations need to be done.

Still, putting more buses on the road will do little to help the region’s biggest transit problem of all: congestion.

“Even though you add service hours, buses are still running slower, because of the amount of congestion on all the roads,” Tait said.

Tait said she’s interested to see the what kind of impact the West Shore connector will have on the No. 61 bus route in the future, such as its access to the West Shore Parkway and the Trans-Canada Highway and how much faster it will take to get to downtown Victoria by bus.

It certainly hasn’t been a smooth journey so far. When the commission received the bus corridor pricing, it came in 30 per cent over budget, which didn’t matter anyway, since staff collapsed the tender before it even got to the commission.

“We didn’t even get a chance to debate it, accept it or reject it, because it was already collapsed,” Tait said.

In 2011, the transit future plan aimed at revealing any added interest from South Island users in public transit, which sat last time at around 12 per cent. At the moment however, that number is in the air.

“There are gradually more people using transit, but is that from growth, or is it people choosing to take the bus. That’s still a question that’s unanswered,” Tait said.

Tait said the big move that would help transit move along is to have a commitment of gas tax funding, but the province outright rejected it, eliminating $6 million of funding in the process; a frustration that has lingered with Tait since she entered office.

“Transit isn’t keeping pace. That’s part of the challenge. You can only have fares increased to a certain level and property tax payments can only be so much, the rest of the funding has to come from somewhere,” she said.