Sylvie Ghanem waits for a bus in her View Royal neighbourhood. Ghanem lived in Vienna with her husband, where public transit use was strongly encouraged. They took that mentality and passed it on to their kids, but their youngest daughter simply couldn’t make a commute by bus work for her. Joel Tansey/News Gazette staff

WEST SHORE ON THE GO (Part 2 of 3): Service gaps make transit tough on some riders

Regular riders find the bus to be inconvenient when not making a simple round trip

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on transit issues facing West Shore residents. This week, we learn that some potential transit riders can’t make the existing public transportation network a part of their daily commute.

Click here to read Part 1.

View Royal resident Sylvie Ghanem considers herself to be pro-transit.

Having lived in Vienna with her husband, Ghanem developed a strong appreciation for public transit and its wide-ranging benefits, including the social aspect that allows her to make connections with people in her community.

That continued when they had kids and eventually moved to Seattle, where she said a lot of parents would buy cars for their kids as soon as they could drive.

“We bought a bus pass (for) our kids,” she said, laughing.

Now, two of her children have moved elsewhere and despite being in their mid-20s, don’t own a car.

Ghanem owns a home-based business, but work-related appointments often take her to Victoria or Oak Bay.

She takes transit whenever she can and praises the frequency and efficiency of the No. 50 route, but she has a hard time making use of the service when she’s headed anywhere outside the downtown core.

Youngest daughter, Emma, is faced with a similar challenge as a University of Victoria student. She tried to make transit work, she said, but quickly realized it was too inconvenient to juggle commuting to the university and her job at Westshore Town Centre.

“I did try to not use (my car) because it is very expensive to drive out to UVic every day,” Emma said. “Not only was it long, but it was extremely packed all the time.”

Langford resident Marisa Wu is in a similar situation, in that the bus stops being a viable option on days where she has other appointments and isn’t simply commuting to and from work.

BC Transit route planner James Wadsworth noted that everybody has different travel needs and depending on the day, may choose different options.

“It’s important when we’re planning transportation in the region that we’re giving people several good choices,” he said. “The reality is depending on what you’re doing that day, transit can work or other choices can work for you.”

When Wu does take the bus, she drives to the park and ride at the Colwood Exchange near the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre and hops on the 50 bus headed downtown. She said she’d like to take the No. 48 bus, which passes right by her home at Happy Valley and Latoria, but its limited schedule makes that impossible.

“The problem is there’s only two buses in the afternoon, so one leaves downtown at 4:10 p.m. and one leaves at 4:40 p.m.,” she said. If she has to work even 10 or 15 minutes extra, she’ll miss the last No. 48 bus.

Wadsworth says BC Transit tries to schedule its commuter routes with a typical work schedule in mind.

“We try to provide people with many choices. We have our regular routes like the 50 and the 61 and those are on major corridors that have higher population densities and mixed uses, so they have an all-day market for transit. Then in residential neighbourhoods with single-family homes, what we like to do is give them a couple of options to go downtown that work for an 8:00 or an 8:30 work start,” he said.

Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak, the vice-chair of the City’s transportation and public works committee, says there aren’t enough direct options for people heading into town.

“Why are we still treating people like they are trundling from the back country? This is a major urban centre … its residents deserve to have a good express bus system.”

Susan Brice, a Saanich councillor and chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, acknowledges that the West Shore has some gaps in service.

“We know that both out in the western cities and out on the peninsula that the frequency and the penetration is not where we would like it, and it just comes down to dollars and cents,” she said.

Following a recently announced $1.63-million influx of funds from the province, this September BC Transit will implement a plan to improve transit for students on the West Shore. That will include extending the No. 39 bus from the Colwood exchange to the Langford exchange, and possibly further to a Westhills exchange if the budget allows. The No. 25A route, which has limited commuter service from the Colwood Exchange to Dockyard, will receive a similar upgrade.

Wadsworth envisions the 25A route eventually having “frequent” service similar to that of the No. 50, which runs every 15 minutes.

Coming up: In the final instalment of our series, we take a look at what the future might hold for transportation on the West Shore.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Twitter: @joelgazette

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