Bus every 9 minutes being considered for busy Greater Victoria routes

A “rapid-bus” system that could send buses along certain routes every nine minutes is being studied by B.C. Transit.

The system would be faster, more frequent and more reliable than what exists now, said Matthew Boyd, B.C. Transit’s director of corporate and strategic planning.

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“And from a customer-experience perspective it just looks and feels different,” he said. “The buses would be branded, the bus stops would have a ‘station’ feel and there would be much more bus lanes.”

He said B.C. Transit began looking at the project this spring, and the effort is building off the “positive momentum” from the past few years linked to dedicated bus lanes.

The bus lanes on Douglas and the Trans-Canada Highway have brought 10- to 20-minute reductions in travel time and led to an increase in ridership, Boyd said.

“Over the last five years we saw ridership in the West Shore increase by 30 per cent and system-wide by 23 per cent.”

The steps being taken by B.C. Transit come as it emerges from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a substantial drop in customers due to the constraints of social distancing.

“We’re slowly seeing that trend in ridership continue to increase,” Boyd said.

He said the goal of a rapid-bus system is “consistent frequency.”

“When a customer arrives at the bus stop and they just missed that one rapid bus, they know that they don’t have to wait any longer than nine minutes for the next one.”

The areas that rapid buses would serve have been chosen, he said.

“The scope of this project is for the corridors between downtown and West Shore, between downtown and the Peninsula and between downtown and UVic,” Boyd said. “We would be looking at utilizing our existing double-decker buses.”

He said the existing dedicated bus lanes have been an important preliminary step for the project “because they give the bus the priority.”

An action plan for the project will be ready this fall, Boyd said.

“At that point we would begin to move it toward implementation mode.”

Cost estimates would also come out, he said.

Boyd said a rapid-bus system is working well in Vancouver for TransLink.

Eric Doherty of the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria said rapid buses can be a positive addition to a community.

“I think that in general it’s a very good thing, to focus on making the transit network faster and more frequent,” he said. “A lot of cities that have put the emphasis there have done well.”

Going forward depends on money and municipal and provincial approvals, Doherty said.

He said that he would not like to see steps like cutting other routes as part of the process.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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