BC Transit says it is working hard to adapt its service to meet the growing needs of West Shore residents.
But Colwood resident Lisa McGregor said it’s still not enough.
When concerns were originally expressed about the locations of the two new high schools in the Sooke School District, she said, parents were promised there would be an adequate number of both types of buses for students and staff. That’s something she said hasn’t happened yet.
McGregor, a mother of three, is tired of her eldest daughter being late for school at Belmont due to being passed up by full BC Transit buses.
“It takes her almost two hours to get to school and most of the time she ends up walking,” she said.
McGregor’s 15-year-old is up at 6:30 every morning to be at the bus stop on Sooke Road by 7:30. But her daughter is often left standing near the intersection of Sooke and Kelly roads as full buses drive past.
“Half the time they don’t even stop,” McGregor said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”
If she can, she’ll catch a bus on Sooke Road then attempt to transfer at the Langford Exchange on Station Avenue. But often she is also left standing there, McGregor said, as buses to the Westhills area are too full to accept more passengers.
“If she can, she’ll jump on the trolley … usually she ends up walking.”
The problem, according to BC Transit media and public relations advisor Mike Russell, is “over the last few years the Victoria Regional Transit Commission has had to balance the needs of the community as a whole while having little to no service expansion hours.”
With the opening of the new Royal Bay secondary in Colwood and the new Belmont secondary in Langford last fall, BC Transit did not have the ability to expand services, Russell said, but altered routes 52 and 59 to serve Royal Bay bell times.
He explained that every additional trip or route used to service the new schools means reduced service hours on another route.
That is what’s causing challenges with route 54, which services Happy Valley, Sooke and Glen Lake roads. At this point, he said, they do not have the ability to take from another route to increase service in this area.
There are a few different bus routes that travel Sooke Road en route to the Langford Exchange, which McGregor’s daughter could take, but she said a number of them use smaller buses, which have lower capacity and are also often full.
Russell said BC Transit puts full-size buses, when available, on select trips to meet demand and that some have been added to route 52 since January. That route is one of the most popular in the area for children traveling to area schools.
With a seven year old in elementary school and a four year old in preschool, McGregor said it’s difficult to drive all three of her children because their start times vary. As for the option of having her daughter ride a school bus to Belmont in the morning, she said it wasn’t much cheaper than taking Transit. She added that a BC Transit pass, for which she pays $45 a month, also offers her daughter more travel flexibility after school and on weekends.
McGregor would like to see that money used to add more or bigger buses to routes before and after school.
BC Transit has been monitoring concerns from parents since the start of the school year, Russell said, and has addressed a considerable number.
When asked if students being chronically late due to bus delays was a problem for the District, a spokesperson said it was not and may only be impacting a handful of students at the two local high schools.