The public will get a final chance to comment on the transit future plan for the Sunshine Coast later this month, with a revised draft that attempts to soften the ride for the plan’s critics.
The draft plan’s short-term priority is to establish an express Highway 101 service to and from the Langdale ferry terminal via North Road that would run every half hour at peak times, with smaller buses serving feeder routes for West Howe Sound, Gibsons Landing, Elphinstone and Roberts Creek.
The plan would also extend the West Sechelt bus service to 3,360 residents who do not live within 400 metres of the current route, in what the draft calls a “quick win,” and improve local services up and down the Coast during its 25-year timeframe.
When the draft plan was presented in September, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors called for a workshop to address outstanding concerns, including the level of service for passengers on the feeder routes.
After an Oct. 8 workshop that included the SCRD board and municipal reps from Gibsons and District of Sechelt, as well as a member of the Progress Plan team, transit staff compiled a list of changes to the plan and options that will be presented to the public later this month.
Among the options is to introduce both the highway express service and 30-minute frequency at all times of the day — either during the next three years, as is envisioned for the express service, or in four to six years, as the plan recommends for the regular 30-minute service.
If both changes are made in the short term, “that means increased costs,” manager of transportation and facilities Brian Sagman told directors at the Oct. 24 corporate and administrative services (CAS) committee meeting.
To increase the frequency of service to Gibsons Landing and Marine Drive in the short term, an option is to provide two route variations for the highway express bus, alternating between Marine Drive and North Road. Under that option, the express route would revert to North Road in later phases of the plan, after service to Lower Gibsons is upgraded to every half hour.
For West Sechelt, more “quick wins” are proposed, including limited trips in the short term to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden as part of the existing service, and increasing the number of connections to enable youth to access the Sechelt arena from West Sechelt.
Cost estimates for the different scenarios will be provided at the public meetings.
General changes to the plan include a proviso that “service priorities will be reviewed in detail prior to implementation and will be flexible to change at that time.”
Responding to Sagman’s report at the CAS meeting, West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull said she was “hearing a very large concern about reduced service in the populated areas,” and read out a letter to the editor from Kathleen Vance of Sechelt that appeared in the Sept. 20 Coast Reporter.
In the letter, Vance urged elected officials to ride the bus to the next meeting where they would discuss transit issues, so “they would know that the hardest part of taking a bus is the waiting, usually out in the cold and the rain and often in the dark.”
Saying she was still “mystified by how much service I’ll be getting along Marine Drive,” Turnbull suggested the wording of the report and aspects of the draft plan were confusing.
“We are expecting our bus riders to be expert, master-degree schedule readers,” she said.
The public meetings are slated for the last week of November, with dates, times and locations to be announced. The feedback will be incorporated into the final edit of the plan, which the board is expected to adopt in January.
Implementing the first three years of the plan will cost an estimated $1.2 million. After revenues, the SCRD’s portion of that cost is $546,500, and BC Transit’s share is $563,000.