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UVic swaps parking spaces for bike centre

Rita Fromholt, with UVic
Rita Fromholt, with UVic's planning and sustainability office, shows off the new bike centre under the University Centre, compete with room for 230 bikes, bike lockers and equipment lockers. The university used 28 vehicle parking stalls to build the space.
— image credit: Edward Hill/News staff

The University of Victoria has repurposed a swath of underground parking into an expansive bike centre as part of its ongoing effort to reduce vehicle traffic on campus.

Housed below the University Centre, the campus bike centre opens Tuesday to students, staff and faculty, offering an indoor space that can hold 230 bikes, and has bike and equipment lockers for rent. It replaces 28 vehicle stalls and cost about $600,000, paid through parking revenues.

About eight percent of the campus population travels to UVic by bike, although that is a decline from nearly nine per cent in 2010. Rita Fromholt, with campus planning and sustainability, said the new bike centre will give cyclists a modern "end of trip" facility that is dry and secure.

"People have been asking for more covered bike areas for years, and people want to ride (to UVic) year-round," Fromholt said.

Students and staff also lobbied for better cycling facilities in the wake of the new 234-space parkade being built next to the new athletics centre. "We invested a lot in a parkade for cars, and students started saying what about for bikes? This is a compromise," she said. "It's an example of the university's commitment to alternative transportation."

The bike centre has room to expand, is open 24 hours and has security cameras. It's also the new home for Spokes, a volunteer group that refurbishes donated bikes and loans them out to students and staff for a small deposit, a helpful service for out of town arrivals.

Expanded transit exchange

Along with cycling, UVic is trying to push up transit usage, but "pass ups" on busy UVic-bound routes continues frustrate students and staff, enough so that the problem has started to influence how people travel to the campus.

In the mid 2000s, UVic saw a steady decline in cars and a healthy uptake of transit and cycling, but those numbers have levelled off, in part due to standing-room-only buses, Fromholt said.

"We've absolutely seen fewer cars, but that has plateaued," she said. "Because of the number of buses on key routes at peak times, we aren't seeing huge changes anymore. Everyone recognizes ... transit needs better service."

UVic and B.C. Transit are planning to expand its current bus exchange across Finnerty Road by adding 10 bus bays in place of pay parking stalls next to the Student Union Building. At peak hours, Transit runs about 50 buses per hour to the campus. Adding those extra bays could expand that capacity by more than 30 buses per hour.

Whether or not more buses or service hours are added next year is up to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, said Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton, which hasn't yet approved B.C. Transit's budget request.

"They could shuffle the deck or they could add more service hours," she said, meaning that the commission could allocate buses from quieter routes to UVic routes.

B.C. Transit is examining all its routes, she said, and considering the option of adding smaller shuttle buses to popular routes in the evening.

B.C. Transit, UVic and the commission have an agreement in principle to fund the expanded exchange at UVic, which Burton said will cost between $750,000 and $1 million, but the three partners haven't released who will pay what. Transit is planning on finishing the expanded exchange by September 2014.

Even running 50 buses per hour, B.C. Transit still counted about 300 pass-ups per day over September and October, although Burton noted that it added four extra buses mid-route to pick up those left behind.

"We try to make sure that if we can't get to the people waiting, that they aren't waiting until the next posted time," she said.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

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