The Comox Valley Regional District board has approved expanding handyDART transit service into the evening, though it won’t take effect for a while
At a board meeting on Sept. 21, manager of transit and sustainability Mike Zbarsky gave the directors an overview of plans to upgrade the service.
The board, in turn, passed a motion to add 500 hours of customized service to the budget starting in January 2023. The cost to the CVRD would be $14,885 for that year.
Each year, BC Transit requests the CVRD to confirm expansion priorities in the Transit Improvement Program (TIP).
“Annually, as you recall, we have a process with BC Transit where they request our confirmation,” Zbarsky said.
The latest TIP from BC Transit recommends three years of conventional transit expansion as well as customized service, such as handyDART and Community Bus routes that serve areas not part of fixed-route service. The recommendations would cover 2023 through 2025.
For conventional service, the recommendation is to add 2,500 hours per year. The recommendation for increased handyDART service was to align it with the conventional transit system, potentially expanding into the evening as well as eventually on statutory holidays. In the second year, there is a plan to redesign community bus routes. Over the three years, the total comes out to about $35,000.
Zbarsky said staff have reviewed the recommendations and suggest not to support expanded conventional service at this time because there are other initiatives to consider prior to supporting additional service. Examples he pointed to include an infrastructure study looking at upgrades to exchanges in the system, the Transit Future Plan and a transportation alternatives assessment.
“The 5th Street bridge project is obviously still affecting transit and transportation across the valley,” he added.
As far as the customized service, Zbarsky said currently it runs to 4:30 p.m., so the expansion would add hours into the evening, though they have not determined how late yet.
Board members agreed it made sense to wait on a decision about conventional service expansion until some of the other factors can be more thoroughly considered.
“I think it’s wise to just wait to look at the range of transportation things that is before us,” Area A director Daniel Arbour said.
Area B director Arzeena Hamir added that having more tailored options such as community buses helps meet the transportation needs of people in rural areas.
“These custom routes will help with that,” she said.
In addition to approving the custom service expansion for 2023, the board also approved a motion to align the custom transit expansion priorities identified through TIP for 2024 and 2025 with the Comox Valley Transit Future Plan and for the CVRD to review and confirm these initiatives annually.