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Bus route expansion plans in Cowichan could soon be back on track: BC Transit

Planned changes sidetracked during pandemic
BC Transit says long-delayed expansion plans for some local bus routes may soon go ahead, if the province decides to fund them. (Citizen file photo)

BC Transit is hopeful that expansion plans for bus routes in the Cowichan Valley will soon receive financial support from the province.

Speaking to the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 13, Seth Wright, BC Transit’s senior manager, government relations, explained that the province had severely cut funding for expansion plans for bus routes across the province during the last few years due to low ridership during the pandemic.

He said the province had been funnelling money that was originally targeted to expanding bus routes towards capital projects in B.C. and other BC Transit programs over the last three to four years.


“In our conversations with the province last year around extension funding, the province said we haven’t recovered adequately from the pandemic to 100 per cent pre-pandemic ridership levels to be able to say that transit is a real priority for expansion and building new routes and new services to new areas,” Wright said.

“That conversation shifted in the last six months as we’ve seen pre-pandemic ridership now being exceeded. So we’re doing better than we were before the pandemic with ridership generally across the province, including the Cowichan Valley. So that has shifted the tone of the conversation with the province. We expect there will be better opportunities for funding [from the province] then there has been in previous years.”

But Wright cautioned that BC Transit can’t presuppose what the province is going to do and what financial decisions the government will make.

Each year, the CVRD Transit division works with BC Transit to affirm or, when needed, modify the overall three-year plan for transit-service expansion and initiatives within the region.

Wright was at the COW meeting to answer any questions related to the latest update to the three-year transit plan.


The plan’s proposals include the introduction of Sunday service on handyDART; improvements on the Cowichan Lake Express and Route 6 (Chemainus/Duncan) and Route 5 (Eagle Heights), as well as expansions on the Nanaimo Cowichan Express (NCX), Cowichan-Victoria Express (CVX) and Shawnigan Lake-Victoria Express (SVX).

Wright did caution, however, that some transit expansion plans could be impacted due to the lack of availability of new buses, an issue that BC Transit is currently struggling with.

He said the timeline on ordering new buses has expanded from one to two years, and sometimes longer.

“We’ve had to order buses for our expansions next year about a year and a half ago,” Wright said.

“So there is limited availability of buses because we haven’t had an expansion across the province for a couple of years, and now we have this accumulated demand from every local government across the province.”

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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