Comox Valley Transit adding 4,000 service hours next year

Comox Valley Transit will add 4,000 hours of service next year.

And that has two municipal regional district directors concerned about ever-rising costs.

“My taxpayers are already really ticked,” said Courtenay mayor Larry Jangula at last week’s Comox Valley Regional District committee of the whole meeting.

“We’re close to a tax revolt.”

Jangula said he was interested in knowing how much each rider in the system was subsidized by local government. Most of the time, he said, the buses appear to run empty.

These are the questions people are asking all the time,” he said.

Comox director Ken Grant said he echoed Jangula’s concerns.

“We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on other things right now … People are getting fed up with tax increases,” he said.

But if no investments are made into the transit system, ridership goals won’t be met.

The system currently provides 28,000 service hours, with the last expansion in January 2015.

“Since that last investment your ridership has levelled off. We’re not seeing any more growth in the service,” said Levi Megenbir, of BC Transit.

One plan intended to fix that is the introduction next year of the “frequent transit network”.

This new network will see 15-20 minute frequency between downtown Comox, North Island College, downtown Courtenay and the Driftwood Mall/Anfield Centre.

The new network would also bring a significant restructuring and improvement of other local routes.

“The key benefits of frequent transit is it makes the system easier to understand; provides a direct connection between key destinations; can reduce the impact of transfers; increases ridership; and also streamlines service through downtown Courtenay and removes it from the Old Orchard area,” said Megenbir.

Cumberland director Gwyn Sproule wondered if the frequent transit option would help to increase ridership.

Megenbir said the current system is “more a coverage-based sysem” and not frequent enough to get people out of their cars.

One recommendation that directors balked at was discontinuing the Cape Lazo/Point Holmes and Huband Road/Seal Bay routes this fall.

At the present these routes require you to phone transit in advance to book a pick-up to take you to the nearest transfer point to conventional service.

Megenbir said there haven’t been any riders for several months now.

“This is not going to go down well,” said Electoral Area C director Edwin Grieve. “I’m just wondering what the alternative is. In the electoral areas we pay a good portion of transit, and get few hours,” he said.

Megenbir said a shuttle route service might work for these rural areas.

“It gives people more certainty about where to catch the bus,” he said, suggesting the community shuttle route option could be looked at for future implementation.

One recommendation that was approved, though, was to route buses to the new Comox Valley Hospital on Lerwick Road, rather than through the hospital parking lot.

A bus stop will be added on Lerwick 100 metres away from the hospital.