On Oct. 15, the Regional District of Nanaimo and BC Transit invited VIU students to board the BC Transit Future Bus and express their thoughts on how the future of transit in Nanaimo should look. The decommissioned bus was outfitted with interactive transit information and a board where students were encouraged to post their comments and concerns with sticky notes.
“The RDN Transit Future Plan is essential to ensure the transit system meets the needs of RDN communities over the next 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 years,” says RDN Chairperson Joe Stanhope in a press release. “Sustainable transportation will assist in reducing transportation-related emissions and improving the overall quality of life in the region.”
The plan envisions what transit in Nanaimo will ideally look like in 25 years’ time and describes what services and infrastructure will be needed to achieve this. This includes building a community understanding and support for an increased investment in public transit.
Jhania, a VIU student, says that her experience with transit in Nanaimo has been okay but notes that planners should be open to increasing the frequencies in transit service. “I’ve found that there are not enough busses at convenient times,” Jhania says. “I would like if there were busses on the hour and half hour. That way [they] could arrive more frequently rather than be all spread out.” Jhania concludes that the busses need to operate at later hours to meet the needs of students.
The Transit Future Team was on-hand to answer questions regarding the RDN Transit Future Plan and help visitors learn more about RDN Transit.
James Wadsworth, Senior Transit Planner at B.C. Transit, reiterates Jhania’s statement saying that students are saying that they are seeking direct, frequent, and fast service. “[Students] want it to be convenient and they want better customer information,” Wadsworth says. “With every transit system one of the major issues that you’ll hear from students is being passed up on the way to university. It’s always a challenge because everybody wants to come to class at the same time. It’s important to have high quality transit service that connects to the University.”
He notes that the Transit Future Plan is based from the 2008 Nanaimo Regional Transit Business Plan, which sought to increase transit ridership in Nanaimo.
“I think that Nanaimo is a real transit town and the natural choice to come to VIU because we want to be a bigger part of your life—you’re the future of the transit in B.C.,” says Meribeth Burton, BC Transit Corporate Spokesperson.
Burton says that the best way to improve transit is to ask people who use it. She notes that she has heard a lot of feedback regarding convenience and accessibility of transit, “we need to be able to be a seven day a week service; it’s a balance between affordability and reliability.”
She adds that the implementation of a U-Pass system, which has been adopted in post-secondary institutions in Victoria and Metro Vancouver could be a cost effective solution for students who use transit. The U-Pass fee at the University of Victoria is $78.50 per term while in Nanaimo students pay a staggering $176 per term.
“It is really convenient for university students,” Burton says. “We are rolling it out to a bunch of different communities and we would love it if Nanaimo got on board. It’s one of our largest centres for BC transit operations and it just makes sense that it would be an attractive alternative for university students here, it would drive rider ship. I think it’s a natural extension of what we should be doing in Nanaimo,” she concludes.