North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said it still boggles his mind that the new inter-regional bus route between the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo, called the Nanaimo-North Cowichan Express, doesn’t have any stops in Chemainus.
Siebring raised the issue at the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 28 as transportation plans for the region, including an update on the NCX bus route after five months in service, were being discussed.
He said one of the main reasons for expanding bus service in the region is to encourage people to use transit instead of their vehicles and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I raised this issue before the route was implemented,” Siebring said.
“If I have someone in Chemainus who wants to go to Nanaimo, they have to burn enough gas to get to Duncan to catch the bus going north to Nanaimo, which is ridiculous when the bus goes right by Chemainus. When the route first began, we were given the commitment that after a year or so, we’d look at this, but I didn’t see it (in the three-year plan for transit in the region that was discussed at the meeting).”
Siebring suggested that a bus stop could be placed on Smiley Road near the Trans-Canada Highway that could connect Chemainus residents to the bus going north to Nanaimo or south to Duncan.
“It boggles my mind that this commuter route doesn’t include one of the major population centres in North Cowichan,” he said.
Jim Wakeham, the CVRD’s manager of facilities and transit, said NCX has only been in operation for five months and the intent all along has been that there will be review of the route by BC Transit after a full year.
“We need to see how the service, hopefully, improves and changes for the good over the winter months because it has only been in operation over the summer months so far,” Wakeham said.
Wakeham said he understands Siebring’s concerns and they make sense, but it’s a fact that the NCX route has been designed as a limited inter-regional service.
“We want to limit the number of stops as much as possible to keep it a fast-moving route, as we learned the hard way with the commuter going to Victoria,” he said.
As well, Wakeham said BC Transit has been in touch with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on putting a bus stop at the intersection of the TCH and River Road in Chemainus, but the ministry said there are safety issues in placing a bus stop there.
“Also, the intersection improvements the ministry plans at the site is two to four years away,” he said.
“We’re looking at other ideas for a bus stop, but I think a better idea would be to provide a better service from Chemainus to Ladysmith and let people connect there.”
Seth Wright, government relations manager for B.C. Transit, told Siebring that BC Transit will work with the ministry and it’s possible that an NCX bus stop in Chemainus could be part of updated plans for the route.
Siebring said that, with all due respect, all he’s hearing is all kinds of reasons not to install a bus stop in Chemainus.
“I think we should approach this from the perspective of ‘let’s find a way to get this done’,” he said.
“I would urge everyone to continue down that pathway.”