Qualicum Beach senior staff say the town is hoping to launch free bus rides at the beginning of July.
CAO Daniel Sailland said the goal is to launch at the beginning of next month, but he doesn’t know if the town will hit that mark. The route, Sailland said, would be the new route that loops through Qualicum Beach.
During the June 18 meeting, Mayor Teunis Westbroek said he has asked the downtown business association and the chamber of commerce if they would be interested in sponsoring free rides in the summer. This is a change from Westbroek’s initial discussions of $1 fares for the town during the summer.
Sailland told The NEWS the town debated whether or not to go with free rides or $1 fares, but he said some people see cost as a barrier.
“But it’s just easier to say, ‘Get on the bus, it’s free; use it until the end of September,’” Sailland said.
He said the town would work with the downtown business association and the chamber to pay for the fares. The Regional District of Nanaimo transit select committee previously rejected the plan to subsidize rides throughout the RDN this summer, citing an adverse effect on the transit system.
“Because of the way it’s structured through the RDN, they can’t do a free run for Qualicum Beach and not for everyone else and especially not just on one run. The option is we cover the cost,” Sailland said.
People would still have to pay in full for the intercity route that goes between Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo, he said.
Sailland said now the town is looking to see how many people could possibly take the free route over the two- or three-month period.
“The worst-case scenario is it’s very successful and costs the taxpayers a few thousand dollars. However, that bus service is subsidized any way.”
But, Sailland said, it could ease local traffic congestion.
“The fact that every 60 minutes you can be in downtown from anywhere around town – we think it’s a huge benefit and could help solve some of the parking strains we see, so we want to change behaviours.”