The Regional District of Nanaimo board put the brakes on the plan to extend bus service to the B.C. Ferries ferry terminal at Duke Point starting in January.
The proposed 5,000-hour annual conventional RDN transit expansion was deferred by the board at its regular meeting on Oct. 3, after Nanaimo directors, who are also city councillors, expressed reservations about the projected $416,416 cost of the service to the City of Nanaimo.
Director Bill Bestwick said it is an expense he could not support as he felt the extended service will only attract a small ridership because the Duke Point ferry terminal caters mostly to commercial vehicles and that foot passenger service is only secondary. He pointed out the ferry service from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay is the primary foot passenger service.
The RDN transit expansion plan was initiated after the regional district received huge support for the service from the public, ferry passengers and the major employer in the area, Tilray, which has 170 full-time workers.
Bestwick struggled to see how 170 employees could convince the City of Nanaimo to contribute more than $400,000 annually to this service especially when the city has a mulitude of priorities they need to focus on first. Bestwick encouraged people to take the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay ferry services as there are more boat sailings in that route than at Duke Point.
As well, Director Jim Kipp said he finds the cost too expensive for the City of Nanaimo to shoulder and also could not justify it especially when he sees transit buses in the community operating with empty seats. He also pointed out the expansion plan has not been fully discussed by the City of Nanaimo yet.
“We are getting a lot of concerns now about public input in Nanaimo,” said Kipp, who added he can’t remember the city discussing the proposed service as a group. He said he can’t support it until Nanaimo gets that chance to review it and decide on it.
The projected cost to other areas are; Lantzville $5,125, Electoral Area A $5,355, and Electoral Area C $459. The total cost of the service would be $427,355.
The goal is to provide a public transportation option for ferry foot passengers, as well as employees working in businesses in the Duke Point area. It would provide services from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., giving bus riders access to five ferry sailings each day.
RDN staff had indicated it will take at least three years of stable transit service along a route to build up ridership and make it viable.
Nanaimo directors and also city councillors Kipp, Bestwick, Bob Colclough, Gordon Fuller, Bill Yoachim, Jerry Hong, and Electoral Area C Director Maureen Young voted in favour of deferring the plan to staff to extend bus services to the Duke Point area.