Visitors to Gowlland Tod Provincial Park wishing to catch a public bus from nearby Butchart Gardens are having to pay $33.80, as the company has barred access to the general public unless they pay the attraction’s full entry fee.
In the past, users of Gowlland Tod Park had been able to access the nearest bus stop, operated by Butchart Gardens and just inside their parking lot, for free. Recently, the company has started charging anyone wishing to catch a bus from there, an inconvenience says some boaters who moor at the nearby Tod Inlet. These boaters rely on the BC Transit service to get supplies from local stores and amenities. It is estimated that crews of up to 40 vessels are currently being affected by the policy.
Matt Wallis, from Anacortes, Wash., has been mooring at Tod Inlet for years and regularly used the bus stop. He explains his recent experience.
“So we walked over to the entrance of the gardens and asked if we could have access to the BC Transit bus terminal and they said ‘Oh no, that’s only for paying customers.’ So they’re limiting access to the public bus to their paying customers, which is a little nutty I thought, I mean, it’s a public bus.”
Boaters are reluctant to pay the entry fee as it dwarfs the price of the actual bus fare. They now have to embark on a one-kilometre walk, uphill and exposed to traffic, to get to the next stop.
“That park is used by tons of people not just boaters and you’d think that BC Transit would like to provide service to it. I would hope either they add a stop right outside the gardens, probably 100 feet from the current stop, or the Gardens need to let other folks use that bus terminal,” says Wallis.
In the past, Butchart Gardens has expressed interest in improved transit provision and this summer BC Transit increased its service to the business, enhancing routes #75 and #81, which deliver customers right inside Butchart’s compound.
Wallis raises the point that Butchart Gardens often operates boating tours around Tod Inlet, with some customers likely to have used the public bus service to get to the attraction.
Black Press Media approached Butchart Gardens to see what prompted the change. The company declined to answer any questions.
BC Transit provided a written response, “We consider all stops to be used by members of the public. If we have a stop on private property, we work with the property owner to understand the requirements for the stop.”
Couns. Zeb King of Central Saanich says residents who pay for the #75 bus contribute approximately $1 million towards public transit.
“Public transit is called public because it serves the needs of all residents and taxpayers and not simply the needs of a single private business. While I support increased trips to Butchart, this should mean more Bus 75 trips serving the rest of the route and not only going to and from a single privately owned and operated business,” he said, adding, “Otherwise this becomes less public and more private transit.”
Ironically, Wallis says he used to moor at Tod Inlet so his family could visit Butchart one day and then bus into Sidney or Victoria the following days. Because of the company’s decision to bar access, he says he doesn’t think he’ll be back.