Bus route changes to affect student commute

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When UVic students returned to school on Sept. 4, they had 69 extra bus trips per week to choose from, according to Meribeth Burton, corporate spokesperson for B.C. Transit.

While students customarily commute to campus for classes Monday through Friday, 49 of those additional trips are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays on Route 26, between the dockyard and UVic. These trips will benefit students who reside on campus and want to get into town, Burton said. Seven additional weekday trips are also scheduled for Route 26.

Other heavily-used routes with additional weekday trips are Route 4 downtown via Hillside, with one additional morning trip per weekday; Route 7, Esquimalt-Royal Oak Exchange, with one additional weekday trip; and Route 11, between Tillicum Mall and UVic, with seven additional weekday trips.

In addition, Route 12, between University Heights and UVic, which was previously served exclusively by community shuttle buses, now utilizes conventional buses during peak times to avoid leaving passengers behind in periods of high demand.

According to Burton, the increases in frequency were achieved through a “creative strategy” to transport more people without added resources. The Victoria Regional Transit System hopes to offset the time required for the additional trips by taking seven routes off Ring Road, where buses are often caught in congestion due to heavy pedestrian traffic.

The congestion slows down buses, making them late, which requires extra time in the schedule.

Routes travelling directly to the main Finnerty Road terminal on campus that have been taken off Ring Road include Route 16x, an express route from Uptown; Route 17, Cedar Hill Middle School to UVic/Dowtown; Route 18, Cedar Hill School to UVic/Hillside Mall; Route 26; Route 29, University Heights Shopping Centre; Route 39, Royal Roads/Camosun College/Royal Oak Exchange and Route 51, Langford.

Buses on these routes now travel directly to the UVic Exchange via the intersection of Sinclair Road and Finnerty Road.

On all of these routes, however, a section of the passage is along McKenzie Avenue, which is undergoing construction expected to last until November.

Mike Lai, manager of Transportation for the District of Saanich, said the contractor is aware of the need to accommodate buses travelling to and from UVic.

One accommodation will be to try and ensure two-lane traffic during peak hours, with single-lane alternating traffic confined to off-peak hours whenever possible. When single-lane traffic is necessary, traffic controllers, known in the trade as “flaggers,” will watch for buses and try to give them priority, Lai said.  However, motorists will be expected to drive more slowly during construction.

Taking buses off Ring Road was one of the recommendations made in the Campus Transit Plan finalized in January 2013. The plan was drafted by B.C. Transit and UVic after consultation with students in the Student Union Building (SUB) in March 2011. It forecasts future transit demand on campus and outlines both long- and short-term options to improve transit and to support predicted increases in ridership.

Current daily ridership to and from UVic is more than 17 000 individual rider  trips.  This is expected to increase to 25 000 trips per day within five years and more than 52,000 trips per day over the long term.

One overarching problem is transit terminal capacity. The main Finnerty Road terminal on campus has 14 bus spaces, but 17 bus spaces are currently required. The terminal is expected to need 21 bus spaces within five years, with this number increasing to 30 in the long term.

Four possible options for increased terminal space on campus were included in the Campus Transit Plan. The UVic Students’ Society board of directors voted May 13 to tentatively support locating a new terminal between Finnerty Road and the SUB. A final preferred location will be selected in an update of the campus plan, scheduled for 2014.

Graphic by William Workman

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