BC Transit is looking to expand infrastructure in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard

BC Transit looks to add infrastructure through Comox Valley

"Basically, there's a transit sale on right now in terms of infrastructure."

  • Jul. 15, 2021 12:00 a.m.

Transit exchanges and dedicated bus lanes are some of the things BC Transit would like to see for the Comox Valley.

Representatives appeared before Cumberland council at the July 12 meeting to provide an update on a study of infrastructure for the area. Manager of transit and facilities Mike Zbarsky, CVRD, and BC Transit senior transit planner James Wadsworth presented an overview of a recent draft report.

“We’ll bring back a final report in the fall,” Zbarsky said.

Recently, more focus has been placed on service issues such as scheduling, but for this process, the issue is adding infrastructure elements. One of the factors driving the process is the availability of grants to help cover costs of expanding the system.

“There is some pretty attractive funding right now,” Zbarsky said. “Basically, there’s a transit sale on right now in terms of infrastructure.”

The plan is to expand service as the community grows, but to do this will require some infrastructure upgrades. A key project, Wadsworth said, would be some kind of transit exchange for the south of Courtenay at Anfield Centre, along with other exchanges. The location they have identified would be on Cliffe Avenue. Another goal is to cut down the walking required from locations nearby such as Driftwood Mall.

The aim is to provide a better experience for riders, with more attractive features, but it will also add amenities such as a washroom for drivers at the stop.

Another consideration would be some type of transit lane, be it a dedicated one or at least during peak hours. Zbarsky said the temporary transit lanes installed for the 5th Street Bridge project in Courtenay have worked well, and BC Transit would like to see something along similar lanes for particular locations.

“We’ve identified a few intersections that could benefit,” he said.

While the emphasis of the study is on infrastructure, it is still linked to service, as the additions would be aimed at speeding up service along routes, as buses would not remain stuck in traffic lineups.

“For a smaller town, we do have traffic congestion here,” Wadsworth said.

Transit has been growing, Zbarsky said, as BC Transit is reporting increases of 28 per cent in the last five years.

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With the draft report now, they want to meet with local governments. At the Cumberland meeting, council members asked about how the changes might affect the village. Zbarsky responded that with the improvements, the hope was for faster service runs that would allow for more buses and stops.

“This is just a better transit service for riders,” he said, adding it should attract more riders.

He conceded there are issues around scheduling but that the infrastructure should help improve service and increase bus frequency.

“We’d like to get the frequency up to a point where schedule doesn’t matter,” he said.

Mayor Leslie Baird asked about complaints in recent years. Zbarsky said they had some after service changes in 2018 but they have had fewer in more recent years.

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