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Douglas Street set to get dedicated 24/7 bus lanes in and out of Victoria

Streetscape improvements, bus priority lanes eyed from Hillside Avenue to Belleville Street
A preliminary sketch of how the city will add dedicated transit lanes and other streetscape improvements along Douglas Street between Herald and Humboldt streets. (Courtesy of the City of Victoria)

As buses currently only make up three per cent of the traffic along Douglas Street but move 40 per cent of the people along the corridor, transit is set to get more priority on the north end of the Victoria.

The section of Douglas Street between Hillside Avenue and Herald Street will have 24/7 dedicated bus lanes before 2025.

The measure was approved by Victoria councillors on May 16 as part of a longer term plan for giving transit more priority in and out of the downtown core. Staff were also directed to come back to council in 2026 with designs for a revamped Douglas Street running between Hillside to Belleville streets, with those plans centred around dedicated bus lanes.

“In addition to bus lanes, the city would use the opportunity to undertake streetscape renewal on Douglas Street to address aging infrastructure (including paving, signals, and transit stops) and improve the overall experience on one of downtown Victoria’s most prominent streets,” a staff report states.

The stretch between Hillside Avenue and Herald Street currently has time-limited bus lanes during peak commute hours, but city staff said those restrictions aren’t consistent with the north section of Douglas Street’s current 24/7 bus lanes. The introduction of 95 RapidBus line over the past year has also increased the volumes and frequency of buses along Douglas.

Implementing the 24/7 dedicated lanes along the section will see the removal of 73 time-limited street parking spaces. Staff said the city continued to see people parking in those spaces during times they’re not supposed to be and a 2023 study found the utilization rate of those parking spots was less than 55 per cent.

Improving transit services on the main corridor in and out of Victoria will help the city meet its goal of having 25 per cent of all trips be by bus by 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting transit-oriented developments, city staff said.

The city says Douglas Street currently has aging bus infrastructure and the overall roadway doesn’t reflect modern, accessible and attractive transit system.

“This corridor is a prime candidate for investments to improve transit service quality, customer experience and encourage increased ridership while supporting housing and employment densification goals,” the report states.

Amid the goal to get more people taking the bus to the regional core, Victoria councillors are bringing a motion forward on May 23 that asks staff to look into the impact of creating parkades or new parking spaces on the north end of downtown. That motion aims to reduce private vehicle movements and parking needs in the downtown.

As staff create designs for complete streets – which envision a safe and livable streetscape with highly efficient transportation – all along Douglas, they said the section between Herald and Belleville streets requires more complex planning.

The segment between Herald and Humboldt street sees the highest transit ridership in the province outside of Metro Vancouver. The city considered various options for orienting dedicated bus lanes, pedestrian spaces and vehicles routes in this section.

Council moved ahead with staff’s recommended choice of removing one general-purpose lane to introduce dedicated bus lanes, while retaining other vehicle lanes. The option also aims to fulfill commercial loading needs, make boarding buses more accessible and add trees and other public realm upgrades.

The option would also remove the painted cycling lanes on Douglas Street, leading to council asking for staff to consider ways of incorporating bike and micro-mobility spaces in the design.

The final segment that runs down to Belleville Street could see the city shift the legislature bus exchange to the Crystal Gardens area, and could lead to other changes for how buses and cars move along Douglas and Blanshard streets.

READ: Greater Victoria queries BC Transit on what would trigger move to rail

READ: Year-long project adding bus lanes to Highway 1 bridges in Greater Victoria

READ: Saanich shoots down creating bus-only lanes to UVic on McKenzie Avenue this year

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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