Sproat Lake could see bus service to and from the City of Port Alberni by 2023.
During an Alberni Valley & Bamfield Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 6, members of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board heard from BC Transit representatives about a potential bus route between Sproat Lake Provincial Park and Walmart in Port Alberni.
BC Transit began a feasibility study last year, including public engagement, to look at expanding bus service in the Alberni Valley to Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake. Melissa Coates, planning coordinator for BC Transit, said 32 people participated in the public engagement process and expressed a “strong” desire for Sproat Lake service, including connections at Sproat Lake Landing, Faber Road, Stirling Arm Drive, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council office and Haahuupayak School.
There was not as much support for routes in Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek, she added.
“The strongest desire heard through public engagement was for the connection to Sproat Lake,” Coates explained.
BC Transit is now looking at an “introductory” route between Sproat Lake Provincial Park and Walmart in Port Alberni.
“Providing the connection to medical appointments, to employment and recreational activities,” Coates said.
Coates estimates that the route will include three round trips per day, with an estimated annual ridership of 3,115 riders. The service is expected to cost $119,000 annually, but how this cost will be split up between participants is still to be determined.
Myrna Moore, senior manager of government relations for BC Transit, said that one public engagement session with Tseshaht First Nation was “very lightly attended” but that there was general support for the service. Any route stopping at the NTC office or Haahuupayak School would have to go through Tseshaht territory.
An agreement will have to be negotiated between Tseshaht and the ACRD to find out how the costs for bus service would be shared, she said.
Director Deb Haggard said that she has spoken to some Port Alberni hoteliers who have expressed support for the idea.
“Tourists are asking for some kind of a bus to take out to Sproat Lake to enjoy the lake,” she said. “In order to grow our tourism industry, I think this is a very important route to take. I know there’s a cost locally, but with the tourists we would be getting it back.”
The service wouldn’t be implemented until 2023.
Sproat Lake director Penny Cote said she sees this as the “first part” of a transit expansion.
“I think that getting people on the bus in our rural communities is an important move for us to make,” said Cote.
The ACRD board of directors will decide whether or not to proceed with the route during their next board meeting on May 13. A number of steps still have to be taken, including more public engagement.