BC Transit is hoping to expand its service in the Alberni Valley with routes in the rural areas of Sproat Lake, Cherry Creek and Beaver Creek.
During a board meeting on Wednesday, June 12, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board approved the second phase of BC Transit’s “Electoral Area Transit Feasibility Study,” which will involve public engagement.
A service review was completed back in 2012, with recommendations to introduce transit service to rural areas in the Alberni Valley, including Tseshaht Market, Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake. Due to “reignited interest,” BC Transit conducted the first phase of a feasibility study this year, identifying two potential new routes for the electoral areas.
The first proposed route would travel from Walmart to either Tseshaht Market or Sproat Lake Provincial Park. The second route would connect Walmart to Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek.
Sproat Lake director Penny Cote expressed her concern on Wednesday that a route along Highway 4 between Walmart and the provincial park wouldn’t actually benefit Sproat Lake residents.
“I’ve been working on this project for ten years, trying to get transit out to Sproat Lake,” she said. “What’s proposed here is…really not servicing my community. I would really like to have some input on this going forward.”
Acting ACRD chair John McNabb replied that this is why BC Transit will be engaging with the public. BC Transit, he said, needs to understand the demand in order to meet that demand. “That’s something else that has to be discussed, is whether the option that they’ve chosen is the best option,” he said.
At this time, a custom handyDART system is offered by the ACRD and BC Transit, which offers accessible, door-to-door transit service for people with disabilities, but a fixed-route system is not in place.
The current transit system, offered by the city of Port Alberni in collaboration with BC Transit, has four routes and generates approximately 300,000 rides per year.
In phase two of their feasibility study, BC Transit will be engaging the public, local First Nations and School District 70 on service options.
The City of Port Alberni will also be discussing expanding routes in the city and the regional district, as well as connecting with the Parksville-Qualicum transit system, during a committee of the whole meeting on July 15.
“We’re trying to make it as cohesive as possible,” explained city councillor Debbie Haggard.