Langford’s trolley service, commuter bus experiment ending June 30

The City of Langford is pulling the plug on its long-standing trolley service, as well as a short-lived luxury commuter bus experiment.

Both the trolley service and Langtoria Greenline will make their final trips on June 30.

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The first old-fashioned, rubber-wheeled trolley hit the road in 2007 as a shuttle service between neighbourhood nodes such as Bear Mountain, the big-box store areas, Goldstream Avenue village and Juan de Fuca recreation complex.

Mayor Stew Young scoped out trolleys at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, but ultimately went with a $60,000 vehicle from

a Seattle company, purchased with support from developers.

It stopped at 21 spots in the West Shore over the course of an hour.

At its height, the city had an annual budget of $230,000 for the service. That had been reduced to $90,000 by this year.

Young said growth of B.C. Transit service in Langford has made the trolley unnecessary.

B.C. Transit has increased service to the area by 76 per cent, the city said.

When the trolley launched in 2007, a Times Colonist editorial applauded Langford council for its efficiency.

“Langford’s great trolley experiment shows that not every idea has to be buried in consultants’ studies and committee reviews,” the editorial said.

Langford tried out the Langtoria Greenline with the same philosophy.

Operated by Wilson’s Transportation, it was pitched as an answer to commuter congestion on the Trans-Canada Highway between Langford and Victoria. But since launching in September, the 50-passenger bus has had only 18 regular riders.

On Tuesday, riders said they were disappointed to learn the service is being cancelled.

“We thought [ridership] was gradually growing,” said Noreen Rasmussen. “It’s so comfortable and easy to use and it’s door-to-door service for me. We love the Wi-Fi, the comfortable seats. We love everything about it.”

Karen Jawanda, who can’t take transit buses because of a back injury, said there’s a 22-person waitlist for the parking lot nearest her downtown office.

Others, who were attracted away from public transit, said they aren’t looking forward to going back. “To be jammed in like a sardine? No,” said Joanna Vandervlugt. “We have made new friends because of this bus. Some of us meet for coffee on a Sunday.” Carpooling is being discussed, she said.

Rather than commissioning a study, Langford went straight to testing the coach bus service. Monthly passes are $110, while daily ones are $15.

Young said there was political will for the project, but not enough consumer buy-in.

“We did our best effort on it,” Young said. “The service is awesome, but we just don’t have the ridership. People aren’t getting out of their cars, even though the traffic is backed up.”

Young took the low buy-in as a signal that perhaps car-friendly responses to congestion should be pursued, like adding lanes to the Trans-Canada. A related option is building a high-occupancy vehicle lane that includes buses.

Langford council will also continue to work with the province on a possible commuter rail service along the E&N Rail corridor.

John Wilson, CEO of Wilson’s Transportation, said the project was a good idea, but perhaps delivered at the wrong time.

“I think somewhere along the line we’ll see these public-private partnerships for commuter issues be the way of the future.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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