The Route 70 NCX Nanaimo-Cowichan Express bus, which provides transit service between Duncan and Nanaimo, could soon see an additional stop in Oyster Bay.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s committee of the whole voted to recommend the new bus stop be added at its meeting on Jan. 24, which would bring the total number of stops on the route to nine.
Stz’uminus First Nation had requested the new bus stop on the NCX route to provide much-needed transit service from their community of approximately 1,500 members at Oyster Bay to nearby urban centres.
Rachelle Rondeau, a transit analyst with the CVRD, said in a report that many members living on SFN territory do not have access to personal transportation which isolates them from healthcare, education opportunities, employment and other essential services.
She said the NCX is currently the closest public-transit service traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway.
However, Rondeau said the closest bus stops for this route are at the Nanaimo Airport, which is approximately five kilometres north of Oyster Bay, and Ladysmith, which is approximately three kilometres south.
Rondeau said improving transportation options for the community is a key priority for SFN.
“Through discussions with SFN, CVRD, BC Transit, the Regional District of Nanaimo and Indigenous Services Canada, it was determined that SFN would pursue implementation of a community-owned and operated shuttle bus service for travel within the community,” she said.
“With introduction of a new bus stop for the NCX at Oyster Bay, the community shuttle would be able to connect with the broader transit service, providing access to nearby communities and urban centres.”
The NCX bus service was started in March, 2022, by BC Transit, the RDN and the CVRD who are partners in the service, with the RDN operating it.
The route operates Monday to Saturday and currently services eight stops between Village Green Mall in Duncan to the Downtown Nanaimo Transit Exchange.
There have been ongoing efforts to provide a bus stop on the NXC in Chemainus, but Rondeau said any consideration of that will have to wait until the service undergoes an upcoming review that will monitor usage and trends, and identify any potential changes to the route, including new destinations.
“Potential upgrades to the TCH near Chemainus could improve the feasibility of a proposed stop (in Chemainus),” she said.
“However, the BC Transit route review will examine all requests and provide recommendations on service as well as infrastructure requirements. Unlike the proposed Chemainus stop, the stop at Oyster Bay fits within the existing service hours without deviating from the highway.”
As part of the plan for the new bus stop, the SFN has agreed to pay $4,000 per year, plus the consumer price index, to help offset the incurred cost of servicing the stop.
“The existing Memorandum of Understanding between the CVRD, BC Transit and the RDN for the NCX expires in March 2027; therefore, a three-year term with SFN coinciding with the remaining term of the NCX MOU is appropriate,” Rondeau said.
Board chair Aaron Stone said adding the bus stop at Oyster Bay would result in more cost recovery for the service, and be more of a benefit to the entire region as a whole.
“But, more importantly, it provides the opportunity and equity that we seek to have in the region, providing opportunities for both education and work, as well as access to services,” he said.