Bus users in Greater Victoria will soon see buses showing up about every 10 minutes on some popular corridors.
It’s called a “rapid bus” system — a faster, more frequent and reliable service for customers.
“Customers [will] no longer need to depend on a schedule anymore,” said Matthew Boyd, BC Transit’s director of corporate and strategic planning. “They can just arrive at the bus stop, arrive at the station, and know they don’t have to wait long for the next bus to arrive.”
The project is still in its planning stages, but the buses are expected to run in three main corridors: Between downtown Victoria and West Shore, downtown and UVic and downtown and the peninsula. How frequent the buses are will depend on the time of day and route.
“Those areas are where we experience our highest ridership,” said Boyd. “So it’s time to scale the service up to the next level, which is more of a limited stop, rapid type service that our customers can rely on.”
Boyd said the project was born out of the successes they’ve experienced in the past few years. The introduction of bus lanes on Douglas Street and Highway 1 has reduced travel time between 10 to 20 minutes per trip. Ridership between downtown and West Shore has also grown about 30 per cent.
The rapid buses will be more reliable because of this, he explained.
“[We will] add more bus lanes, so add more road space that is dedicated for transit service because that gives it the priority and it makes the service much more consistent,” Boyd said. “The other way we’d be looking to improve reliability is to limit the number of stops.”
The rapid buses, which will likely be double-decker buses, will also be rebranded to distinguish them from other bus services that exist. This could mean painting the bus a different colour or designing the rapid bus station in a different colour, so when the bus arrives, the customer knows what service to expect.
The service, Boyd added, would be very similar to the rapid buses in Vancouver that began operating earlier this year.
“We want to make it fast, we want to make it competitive with other modes, including the single-occupant vehicle,” he said. “So we encourage people to get out of their cars and get onto the bus because they know that when they ride the bus, it’s going to be as fast or faster than their personal automobile.”
The rapid bus action plan, with estimated costs, is expected to be ready in the fall. The implementation plan will follow and include public consultation
Eric Doherty, a member of the Better Transit Alliance of Greater Victoria, said he is very pleased to hear about the project because frequency and reliability are some issues transit users bring up most.
“People want to know that the bus is coming frequently and they want to know that there’s not going to be a big gap,” he said.
With that being said, Doherty added he is still concerned about a potential reduction in other transit services.
“This can’t be about stealing service hours from some of the routes with less ridership in order to put them on these rapid bus transit corridors,” he said. “This needs to be about improving the whole system.”