Bus loop expansion opens to fanfare

NEW_Transit loop opening_Kier Robins_NEW_Transit loop opening_Kier Robins-01_140904_webAfter three months of construction, UVic opened its new 10-bay bus loop on Sept. 4 in the presence of local and provincial government representatives, as well as members of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC). UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson MCed the event, attended by officials, press, and a few students.

“This upgrade will further improve the ability of students, faculty and employees to get to and from UVic on transit,” said MLA and Parliamentary Secretary Jordan Sturdy, who spoke on behalf of Todd Stone, B.C.’s minister of Transportation.

Stone said the $1.52-million bus loop, the cost of which was shared between B.C. Transit, the province, and UVic, will improve travel for the approximately 17,000 passengers that use the loop each day. He said that moving the three bus bays from Ring Road will improve safety for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists, and commented that commuters could leave their car behind due thanks to the expanded service.

Susan Brice, transit commission chair and former Saanich South MLA, stressed the partnership between government, the university, and B.C. Transit staff, touting the commission’s responsiveness to student demands for expanded transit service, including 5 000 extra service hours introduced last week, some of which are allocated for more late-night service to UVic.

In her remarks, Carmen Charette, UVic’s VP of External Relations, said that the bus loop was the culmination of over three years of planning with B.C. Transit and the VRTC, and detailed the history of B.C. Transit’s relationship with UVic, reminding the crowd about the university’s first bus loop, which was in the same area as the newly opened expansion. She noted that 28 per cent of the university population now takes the bus to campus, compared to 11 per cent in 1996.

“Over 60 per cent of trips to campus are by various green modes of transportation, and we are aiming to increase that to 75 per cent by 2019. Thanks in large part to improved transit options, we are confident that we will reach that goal,” said Charette.

The final speaker was Manuel Achadinha, UVic alumnus and president of B.C. Transit. He explained that the bus loop expansion was to be built after the release of UVic’s next long-term campus plan, but construction was accelerated in response to apparent need from both university and municipal users.

In an interview with the Martlet, Achadinha noted that student lobbying was a key motivator for additional service, and said that the long-overcrowded bookstore bus loop could not accommodate the additional service hours that students demanded.

“One of the biggest challenges we had was that the existing exchange was overcapacity,” said Achadinha. “We were concerned about student safety, but we were also at a point where we just couldn’t add any more service, and . . . students are demanding more transit service.”

For her part, Erickson was pleased with the new loop and how it will benefit students. “For years now, we’ve been hoping that students were going to be heard on transit issues. For example, there were students who were being passed up daily trying to get home or trying to get to class, which really impacts [their] learning ability, and so for us to take those concerns to transit, and ask them to do something about this, and having them respond in such a wonderful way, is really exciting.”

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