The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has set a one-year deadline to have rush-hour, bus-only lanes up and down Douglas Street.
The commission wants the dedicated lanes operating during morning and evening rush hours by September 2013, said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, a transit commissioner.
"We're going to break the back on that congestion," Fortin said. "We said if we don't have a timeline, if we don't have a date, then we'll just keep slipping."
B.C. Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said transit staff will report back on cost estimates and timelines for bus-priority measures on three major corridors - Douglas Street, McKenzie Avenue and the Island Highway - as well as options for implementation.
Saanich and Victoria councillors agreed at a joint meeting in March that steps have to be taken quickly to move more people on buses.
Fortin said his goal is to see bus-priority lanes running all the way to Langford during the morning and evening rush hours within a year. But he conceded that much of the route - the Trans-Canada Highway - comes under provincial jurisdiction.
B.C. Transit's long-range plans call for a $1-billion Light Rapid Transit line between downtown Victoria and Langford in the West Shore. Fortin said bus-only corridors might help forestall the need for that work.
"If it solves our problem by putting some paint on the ground in this dedicated lane, then perfect," Fortin said. "If it delays our need to invest in Light Rapid Transit for another 10 or 15 years, that's good, too."
Bev Highton, chairman of the Association of Douglas Street Businesses, said time-limited bus lanes during rush hours could make sense, but he wants to see the details - such as whether they would be busonly or high-occupancy-vehicle lanes as well - before endorsing the idea.
"It would appear to be a sensible approach to me - doing things incrementally and maybe working toward a bus-only lane if it's absolutely warranted sometime in the future," he said.
One incremental change, he said, would be restricting parking for certain hightraffic times of the day.
Highton said he would prefer designating high-occupancy-vehicle lanes to bus-only lanes.
The Douglas Street corridor is one of the most heavily travelled in the Capital Regional District. Between Belleville Street and Hillside Avenue, 500 to 900 bus trips are made daily, carrying 17,000 to 23,000 passengers.
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