Andrew Appleton taking the bus in November, when he accepted the one-week bus challenge by Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow. (Selfie)

Andrew Appleton taking the bus in November, when he accepted the one-week bus challenge by Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow. (Selfie)

Oak Bay council responds to one-week transit challenge

If you’re voting on bus lanes, you better get on the bus, councillor says

Remember when Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow challenged local politicians, including the regional transit commission, to take the bus for one week straight?

It was back on Nov. 5 and not many local politicians went to social media to take up the challenge. Or if they did, they didn’t report back to Dubow.

“I’m not sure who completed it but I know [Colwood Mayor Rob Martin] had accepted the challenge,” Dubow said.

READ MORE: Victoria councilor challenges elected officials to use public transit for a week

Dubow hoped taking the bus would give councillors the opportunity to have conversations with fellow commuters and frontline workers, and to lead by example.

“It’s local government who make decisions on bus lanes and bus shelters, so for them it is a good idea to really experience it,” Dubow said. “If you’re making a decision about buses, you better get on the bus, then it gives you an idea of what you’re voting on.”

Oak Bay Coun. Andrew Appleton not only accepted the challenge but also completed it. February marked a decade that Appleton has ridden his bike year-round from his home near Windsor and Monterey. He interrupted the bike commute to ride the bus, using different routes – though it did take him longer than one week as he was out of town.

“It took longer than five straight days, but I did it,” Appleton said. “I thought it was a great idea by Sharmarke to put it out there, as it behooves any elected official to know their active transit system and even though I ride my bike, which is sustainable, I don’t have a lot of experience with BC Transit.”

READ ALSO: Motion for Greater Victoria fair free youth transit defeated

Appleton, a biologist, works in a provincial building in the Selkirk village. He tried a few options including adding one with a connection.

“I took the No. 2 from the village and transferred to the No. 11. And I did learn something. I missed the connection. It took a while.”

The best route for Appleton was the No. 8 which left Oak Bay Avenue and stopped right beside Selkirk at Gorge and Jutland.

Mayor Kevin Murdoch also took up the challenge but not for a whole week as he had no need to bus each day.

“I took it down to meetings downtown, otherwise I pretty much ride my bike locally,” Murdoch said.

Coun. Tara Ney, a professor at the University of Victoria, did not take up the challenge.

“Where I live and go to work, it’s faster to bike,” said the cyclist.

Coun. Eric Zhelka, who is known for coming in hot to Monday night council meetings, drives a Nissan Leaf to his job with Emergency Management B.C. in Central Saanich.

“I just wouldn’t have time to bus there, bus back and get back in time [for council or dinner],” Zhelka said. “But both my children have bus passes. My daughter uses B.C. Transit to get to school.”

For Couns. Esther Paterson, Hazel Braithwaite and Cairine Green, the challenge would have meant getting on the bus for no reason as all three are retired.

“It was an easy challenge for me, I use and support public transit, but my schedule as a retiree is more flexible than those who need to travel to work or school,” Paterson said.

Braithwaite has been walking everywhere to help train for the Pacific Crest Trail she plans to hike with her husband later this year. She did use the bus a half dozen times in the last year, before her official retirement.

Green noted she was a daily bus commuter from her former home in North Saanich to her job downtown between 1995 and 2003.

“It was an express bus that got me to my desk on Superior Street at 8 a.m. every morning,” Green recalled. “There is a real social sub-culture that develops when you ride the same bus with the same people for years. We celebrated birthdays and other special occasions, met for lunch, and stayed in touch even after many of us left the workforce.”

READ ALSO: Central Saanich councilor offers counter-challenge to Victoria bus riding motion

On Monday, Murdoch voted in favour of a motion at the Regional Transit Commission to develop a cost-impact business case for a potential pilot project in 2021 that would provide free bus passes to youth in the region.

Murdoch, Dubow, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr supported the motion. Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and commission chair Susan Brice voted against.