Regional riders can expect more service hours on some routes and a new service along Back Road.
At the Jan. 27 board meeting, the Comox Valley Regional District approved the additional of 3,600 service hours, of which 3,000 hours would be added for Route 1 from Anfield Centre to Comox Mall, Route 10 to Fanny Bay and Route 12 to Oyster River, likely next March to improve performance and increase frequency. The other 600 will go to address service gaps on Back Road.
The regional district has been working with K’ómoks First Nation to understand their transit needs, a process that has included distributing a survey to members. The plan addresses the issue of a route along Back Road from Comox Mall to Ryan Road.
Manager of transit and facilities Mike Zbarsky outlined the upgrades for the CVRD board, noting the importance of service improvements to riders, especially in terms of being on time and the problems for them when the buses are late.
“On-time performance is a real key issue for bus riders,” he said.
The board had approved additional hours earlier in January, but the regional district needed to figure how to best use the extra time.
“Since then, we’ve been working on exactly what to do with those hours,” Zbarsky said.
An addition he has pointed out that could help is priority lanes that allow buses to move more freely through traffic, as well as reducing operating costs. The staff report notes that the bridge renovation work on 5th Street has meant changes for busing, but that once the work is done, the service will revert to previous scheduling. The additional hours will then be brought in for next March.
Area A director Daniel Arbour also suggested the region look at ways to link the system with Campbell River and Nanaimo, extending the network for riders to get up and down Vancouver Island. He made a secondary motion, which passed, to initiate discussions with the neighbouring regional districts about a plan.
“There’s a lack of connectivity in public transportation across the entire Island,” he said.
Area C director Edwin Grieve expanded on the idea, arguing they need to make clear that transit is not exclusively an urban issue. He said he had brought up the matter almost a decade ago and is happy to see moves toward establishing more regional service.
“This is a small thing, but it’s badly needed,” he said. “It’s an idea, I think, whose time has come.”
Electoral area stops
Also on the agenda was a plan to increase bus stop infrastructure for electoral areas, specifically by adding more stops. The board approved a motion to amend its financial plan to include provincial funding to increase the amount by $200,000, making for a total of $251,000 for the improvements in electoral areas.
The CVRD has been working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in recent years on a network of stops in the electoral areas. The network will replace the practice of “flagging down” a bus anywhere safe to do so, which as the staff report indicates has meant uncertainty for bus riders.
There are nine stops planned that will need paved pull-off areas. Six are on Back Road, one on Torrence Road in the Comox area and two on Clarkson Avenue in the Saratoga Beach area. The pull-off areas will have concrete pads for shelters in the future, which the regional district would be responsible for adding.