BC Transit on Aug. 26 rolled out the biggest change to its bus system the Alberni Valley has seen in 40 years. On Friday, riders let BC Transit officials know exactly what they think of the new system.
The vocal patrons came out to the launch of the new exchange at Redford Street and 12th Avenue, by McDonald’s.
Gillian Shearwater said the changes force people to take two buses to make a single trip, which can be a hardship for seniors having to climb into and out of the buses. The route that takes riders to South Port is mislabeled as being a single trip, she said, but actually has a transfer and a 15-minute wait.
Shearwater also complained about the type of bus shelter erected at the new exchange; the perforated metal will offer no shelter during wind and rain storms, she said, questioning why money was spent on that type of shelter.
“There’s no need for change,” said one man, who didn’t want his name used. He complained that the pavement on Redford Street at the exchange will wear out sooner because of the increased traffic, and bemoaned the lack of service near his home in North Port.
“We’re hearing a lot of concerns today,” corporate spokesperson Meribeth Burton said as she handed out cupcakes. “We knew it wouldn’t be a complete love-in. We hope people will give us two to three months.”
Port Alberni has the sixth highest number of riders per hour of 130 transit systems in British Columbia, she said. “It out-performs bigger city competitors.”
Port Alberni used to have an inter-looping system. The new routes are more geographically succinct, Burton said, and provide greater frequency.
The bus shelter that was erected at the exchange is the most popular model, and was chosen by city council, she added.
Burton said this type of system has worked well in other communities. “We think it will work well in Port Alberni.”
BC Transit’s senior regional transit manager, Myrna Moore, talked to people at the open house about the routes. She took down their suggestions. Chief operating officer Mike Davis was also on hand, saying it’s important to thank the people who ride the buses.
“When you totally restructure a small community transit system it’s important to get out with the riders and see what works and what needs change,” he added.
Mayor John Douglas said he was encouraged at the dialogue taking place between riders and BC Transit officials. He said BC Transit seems amenable to changing the schedule that delivers passengers to West Coast General Hospital at 7:45 a.m., well after most morning shifts start.
Douglas said the city needs to improve accessibility and use of transit in Port Alberni.