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GRIDLOCK: Sooke transit ridership lower since the pandemic

Average weekly boardings are half as high compared to pre-pandemic numbers on some routes
Transit ridership numbers are lower than pre-pandemic levels in Sooke. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke has seen a slight increase in bus ridership, although it is still well below pre-pandemic levels.

Part of the District of Sooke’s efforts to address lengthening commuter delays for those driving along Highway 14 to work has encouraged residents to take transit as residents’ frustrations mount about the traffic.

Sooke’s busiest route, route 61 (which goes from Sooke to Langford to downtown Victoria), had 2,513 average weekly boardings in September 2019 – the highest it’s been in the past three years – but post-pandemic saw those numbers drop to 568 boardings in April 2020, right after COVID-19 shutdowns started. Those numbers have been slowly creeping upwards since then, reaching 1,381 boardings in last month, the second-highest monthly average since the pandemic (November saw 1,441 weekly boardings.)

Numbers have also dropped on route 65 to downtown Victoria via Westhills. Pre-pandemic, the average weekly boardings were at 285 in February 2020 but dropped to 21 average weekly boardings in April 2020. Since then, they have slowly climbed upwards, peaking at 137 average weekly boardings in December 2021 and sitting at 134 boardings in February.

The district said in a release addressing traffic delays that it was working with B.C. Transit to expand transit services and encouraged residents to use the park and ride near Edward Milne Community School.

Sooke’s local area transit plan lays out a plan for service changes in the future.

There have been changes already made by adding route 65 (identified as a critical need) and converting the old route 64 East Sooke to the new East Sooke/Beecher Bay/Langford route, connecting the Scia’new First Nation and Victoria.

Next is to discontinue route 63, which covers Otter Point and replace it with an updated route. There are also plans for more local coverage routes within Sooke and adding more weekend trips and weekday roundtrips (short-term goals), and further down the line, have weekend service for all local routes (medium-term goals).

The plan identifies the potential for a new bus terminal on Wadams Way and a park and ride along Highway 14 to accommodate those increases. The transit plan nor B.C. Transit provided a timeline on when those changes may be implemented.

“We are at a point in Sooke’s history where our growth is attracting new commercial development, and an employment lands strategy is being created. This will provide the potential for a significant supply of local jobs, which will ultimately assist with the traffic delays many are experiencing – in addition to the implementation of our transportation master plan, improved transit and long-term planning with School District 62,” Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said in a statement.

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