New bus lane complete on Douglas Street but ridership down 80% due to COVID-19

New bus lane complete on Douglas Street but ridership down 80% due to COVID-19
WatchOn Wednesday the dedicated bus lane along Douglas Street in Victoria was complete. But right now not many will get to take advantage of it, COVID-19 has severely impacted transit and company finances. Julian Kolsut reports.

The final section of a dedicated southbound bus lane from Fisgard Street in downtown Victoria to the Burnside Road overpass in Saanich was completed Wednesday.

But the result is bitter-sweet, as ridership has plummeted and the potential 10-minutes riders would save is not applicable due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Unfortunately it’s something we have looked forward to for a number of years,” said Ben Williams, from the union representing B.C. Transit workers.

“Obviously they are not having the impact they would if things were as usual.”

The COVID-19 crisis has hit the regions transit system hard.

“We’ve had an 80 per cent reduction in ridership,” said Susan Brice, chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

They are not collecting fares, and when looking at last-year they are likely loosing at least $3 million a month.

“Without collecting fares that is a significant loss of revenue.  As well as the Victoria Regional Transit Commission relies on gas tax and with fewer people driving there will be less tax coming in,” Brice said.

The official losses have not been released by staff. But officials say that even though there could be more changes, they will still be able to operate.

“There are changes happening all the time, staff are monitoring daily where the needs are and making adjustments,” said Brice.

“There will be a continued service regardless of what lies ahead.”

It’s unclear how long the severely reduced transit conditions will continue, but there is some hope on the horizon.

“It’s anyone guess to how long this is going to go on,” said Williams of Unifor.

“One thing we are looking at keeping an eye on is we do see government hinting in the coming weeks we could see some loosening and some additional people may be going to work.  That’s where we are going to be cautious, [that] we don’t reduce the transit system too much.”

Drivers are still needed to run extra buses on routes that need social distancing, and the summer schedule means more are off. There is hope that things do level out soon.

“If the fall comes if we do not have a more normal pattern in place we will gave to look at things again,” added Williams.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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