Douglas Street businesses take transit plan into their own hands

A group of Douglas Street business owners are developing their own plan to address transit and vehicle traffic on the street where they work.Their proposal would serve as an “effective and less expensive” alternative to putting dedicated transit lanes on Douglas Street and the Trans-Canada Highway – a plan they believe would hurt business.“We believe Douglas is a perfectly functioning road the way that it is,” said Bev Highton, chair of the Association of Douglas Street Businesses and the owner of NAI Commercial Real Estate Services on Johnson Street. “There’s really no traffic issues on Douglas at all.”B.C. Transit has a long-term plan to install either light rail or rapid bus service on a dedicated corridor that would begin in Victoria’s downtown core, continue north to Uptown and west through View Royal, before ending in Langford. The plan has been endorsed by Saanich and Victoria councils.The business group’s alternative transit plan also includes a commuter rail component on the E&N line between the West Shore and Victoria.They say in order to improve transit services for the region, different ideas should be considered, such as reducing parking on certain bus routes for improved traffic flow.A retired traffic engineer in the group has offered to begin developing the plan in mid-March with input from different business owners.Highton said recent talk of stagnant ridership and revenue for B.C. Transit, and its subsequent proposal to offset that by raising property taxes by $28.50, flies in the face of Transit’s call for the rapid-transit corridor along Douglas.“What we’re trying to do is say, ‘whoa, wait a minute,’” he said. “Here you are having to go to individual property owners to subsidize your failing system.”B.C. Transit staff are in the process of outlining different tax-increase scenarios, and how those would affect busing services.emccracken@vicnews.com