Starting in January, 2018, the Regional District of Nanaimo is planning to include transit to the BC Ferries ferry terminal at Duke Point.
The objective is to provide a public transportation option for ferry foot passengers and residents, as well as employees working in businesses in the area.
A 5,000-hour annual expansion has been recommended by RDN Transit to the Duke Point area, which would ensure services from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., providing bus riders access to five ferry sailings each day.
In 1997, the regional district transit conducted a three-month trial for public transit to the Duke Point ferry terminal. It was discontinued due to low ridership. However, RDN staff indicated that it takes at least three years of stable transit service along a route to build up ridership and make it viable.
RDN Transit has taken this latest initiative following requests from the public, ferry passengers and the major employer in the area, the Tilray medical marijuana producer, which employs 170 full-time employees and has a goal of adding 20 to 30 employees next year. Following discussions with Tilray, BC Ferries and the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, and based on the feedback from the 2014 Transit Future Plan, the feasibility and costs of public transit in the Duke Point area were explored.
In the first year of the service, the estimated ridership for a ferry shuttle route to Duke Point ferry terminal and industrial area could start at around 10 passengers per trip.
Superintendent of Transit Planning and Scheduling, Erica Beauchamp, in her report to the Transit Select Committee on Sept. 14, indicated ridership is expected to increase over the next three years as more travelers learn about the service and realize public transit as a viable, sustainable and cost-effective means of travel to and from the Duke Point area.
The public transit service to Duke Point Terminal is one of the medium-range service improvements in the RDN’s Transit Future Plan of 2014 for local transit.
Cost for the 5,000-hour expansion is estimated at $427,355, based on 2017 budgets. However, costs will vary depending on a number of items, including fuel prices and the amount of deadhead service hours the RDN has to absorb, as BC Transit does not fund deadhead hours.
The RDN board will still have to approve the RDN Transit recommendation.