By Tim Collins
Recent approvals by Victoria City Council and the Regional Transit Commission have cleared the way for the next stage in the development of improved transit service on the southbound side of Douglas Street, between Hillside and Tolmie.
They’re changes that transit hopes will result in the enhancement of mass transportation options for people making their way to the West Shore communities.
Victoria Transit has been involved in the process since 2011 said spokesperson Drew Snider. He explained that it’s all designed to make mass transit options more attractive, reliable, efficient and effective. He emphasized this has been a long process that has involved a great deal of community consultation to date and which will continue to engage the public as plans move forward.
“We had considered the re-purposing of existing lanes as dedicated bus lanes on the southbound side of Douglas between Hillside and Tolmie, but the feedback we received from area residents reflected a concern that this would only serve to move traffic into adjoining residential streets,” said Snider.
Instead, the plan is to widen Douglas Street to create a dedicated transit lane.
“Resident concerns were certainly a factor in the plan that we put forward,” he said.
But the plan is not without its critics.
Stuart Hertzog, a member of the Burnside Gorge Neighbourhood Association’s land use committee, sent sharply worded correspondence to B.C. Transit and the Transit Commission in which he challenges the veracity of Transit’s claims of community involvement.
“B.C. Transit is turning Douglas into an urban freeway,” said Hertzog. “We (area residents) want traffic calming, more pedestrian crossings and the retention of the buffer between the traffic and pedestrians on Douglas.”
Hertzog said the plan as it now stands would result in the removal of 26 mature trees and the loss of the green buffer between traffic and pedestrians.
Hertzog argued the plan is “at complete variance” with the planning goals of the City of Victoria, which give priority to pedestrians.
Susan Brice, councilor for the District of Saanich and chair of the Transit Commission, said while she’s aware of those concerns, it’s important to realize that the current plans are all part of a bigger picture to make transit run more efficiently.
“It comes after an enormous amount of public engagement,” she said.
According to the recently approved B.C. Transit recommendation, a further period of public consultation and engagement will be followed by the selection of a consultant, design reviews, and construction tendering.
Construction of the dedicated lane is slated to begin in November and last until March 2017.