Transit gets poor grade in Regional District of Nanaimo survey

People generally happy with the RDN, except for transit

People are the least satisfied with transit among public services, according to the latest Regional District of Nanaimo poll.

However, the same poll also indicates transit is the service most people want to see expanded. The Ipsos Reid Public Affairs citizen satisfaction survey conducted 1,325 interviews with RDN residents in relation to the satisfaction of public services. The results of the study released at a Sept. 9 meeting are said to be accurate to +/-2.7 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Of the rural communities in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area that receive transit, Deep/Bowser residents are the least satisfied with the bus system.

Less than one in five residents indicated they were “satisfied” with public transit in the region.

Director Bill Veenhof, who represents the area, said the results come as “no surprise.”  Veenhof said the bus runs from Nanaimo to Deep Bay once per week on Tuesdays. He said an average of eight people use the service, which also doubles as the area’s Handydart.

“The people who are using it (public transit) are elders who have lost their driving privileges and, to a certain degree, youth,” said Veenhof. “Mostly it enables aging in place.”

He said there is a demand from his constituency for daily service, however, most would like to see a bus route that connects to the Courtenay/Comox area, instead of Nanaimo.

Currently, Veenhof is looking at working in conjunction with the Comox Valley Regional District to provide daily service to his electoral area.

RDN general manager of transportation and solid waste Dennis Trudeau confirmed transit’s plan includes the possibility of getting daily service to the Deep Bay/Bowser area going north, instead of south.

Trudeau said the results of the survey, in terms of low satisfaction with transit, are consistent with what RDN officials have been hearing through public outreach.

“If you want more of something it means you must not be satisfied with the current system,” said Trudeau, who noted transit has expanded dramatically over the last decade now offering service on all statutory holidays and weekends.

Trudeau said “ridership has gone from under two million to three million by listening to our ridership group.”

He said transit has a “20 year future plan” which brings together stakeholders, students, municipal staff and B.C. Transit in an effort to prioritize how to best expand transit services. He said in 2015 there will be transit expansions in Nanaimo, more connections to the Parksville Qualicum Beach region and more service to VIU.

He said the RDN will continue to listen to residents and expand transit routes based on demand.

The RDN’s current transit system does not provide service routes to Errington or Coombs.

Director Julian Fell, who represents the area, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Trudeau confirmed there is currently no bus route that goes up to Errington or Coombs, but noted RDN officials haven’t heard from people in the area demanding public transit be expanded to their region.

“There is always a right time for transit to expand,” said Trudeau.