B.C. Transit purchasing new buses, launching service review for Greater Victoria

Review will look at ridership, possible expansion options, infrastructure changes

B.C. Transit has the green light to purchase two new conventional buses ahead of plans to review and possibly expand Greater Victoria’s transit service.

The addition to the fleet for 2013-14, approved Tuesday by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, would potentially add 5,000 hours annually to the busing schedule.

The buses will be ordered in July, and will arrive as early as February 2013. Each will cost about $500,000.

Commission members expressed unease about approving the purchase without knowing the full details of future service expansion plans.

But those details won’t be available until information comes back from the upcoming service review, as well as from a three-year service and financial strategy, which will get underway this summer.

Due to the time it takes to acquire a new bus, Mike Davis, B.C. Transit chief operating officer said a delay in purchasing new buses would mean a delay in freeing up buses during rush hour.

The new vehicles could help address the service gap, said commission member, Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto.

“I just can’t imagine that a year from now we’re not going to be in a position to use two buses,” she said.

Through the development of a three-year service and financial strategy, B.C. Transit will look at creating a fare strategy, three-year base budgets, expansion scenarios and related infrastructure investments. A draft report will be presented to the commission in September.

Staff are also starting a 20-month service review that will analyze ridership and ultimately identify improvements to the transit service, potential service expansions and infrastructure options. The Crown corporation hasn’t conducted a service review in 10 years in Greater Victoria.

Approved minor service review recommendations, such as scheduling changes, could come into effect as early as fall 2013.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commission members also had the option of not purchasing any buses, or purchasing four new vehicles that would boost annual service levels by 10,000 hours.

emccracken@vicnews.com

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