Discussion continues over the bus to Bowser

Ridership remains 'very low' on the bus to Bowser, says the area's RDN director

The weekly bus run to Bowser won’t be running on Mondays anymore, says Area H director Bill Veenhof.

That’s because the once-weekly service has been moved to Tuesdays after consultation with those who use it.

The problem, Veenhof said, involved statutory holidays, which often fall on Mondays, meaning the bus service is canceled on that day.

However, Veenhof stressed the ridership on the new service needs to improve.

“It is still very low,” he said. “If the ridership doesn’t improve significantly, we will need to have the debate in the fall about continuing the service.”

In an interview, he said there is no bus service in the world that runs without some form of subsidy, but at some point a decision will have to be made about whether it makes sense to continue.

“It’s a social service, which is why you have governments — to provide social services,” he said. “We are seeing ridership improve slowly, four to eight people a week on a run, but we are subsidizing this to the tune of $65,000 a year. That’s a big subsidy. Does it make sense? That’s the dialogue we need to have.”

Veenhof noted studies have shown it takes as long as two years after a bus service is instituted for it to really catch on, so he said he’s content to let it run its course at this point.

One option, he said, might be to take advantage of bus service from Comox that runs to Fanny Bay every day. If this service were to be extended to Bowser, the additional cost would be significantly less and it would provide daily, instead of weekly service.

“Look at the residents,” he said. “Where do we go? A lot of people go north. It’s 15 to 20 minutes closer than Nanaimo.”