MInister of Education and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming (from left), Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Victoria Regional Transit Commission chair Susan Brice, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena and BC Transit president/CEO Manuel Acedinha celebrate the start of transit priority lane construction on Douglas Street on Tuesday. Photo by Jonathon Dyck, BC Transit

Shaving minutes off commutes among the goals for Victoria bus lanes

Work on southbound Douglas Street lane between Tolmie and Hillside getting underway

Work is set to begin on the next phase of bus priority lanes for Douglas Street, the southbound stretch between Tolmie and Hillside avenues.

When the project is completed, both sides of Douglas, from Fisgard Street to Tolmie, will be switched to 24-hour transit – both public and private – and cyclist priority lanes. Currently the northbound lane is restricted to transit and cyclists from 3 to 6 p.m. and the southbound lane from 6 to 9 a.m.

While it’s hard to estimate the amount of commuting time the changes will save for Douglas Street bus riders, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton recalled something a former Sooke mayor told her after bus priority signals were installed at Tillicum Road and McKenzie Avenue, allowing buses to jump ahead of westbound traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway.

“He told me that between those two bus priority lights, they shaved four minutes off the (going home) commute for passengers,” said Hamilton, who sits on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and the CRD’s transportation committee. “You’ve got to be able to move the bus. We’ve played with fares and with taxes and that sort of stuff, but you raise fares people stop taking the bus; you raise taxes and people go ‘boo.’ By moving people faster, if I’m sitting in my car watching the bus go by, I’m more likely to say ‘hey, maybe I’ll try that sometime.’”

Hamilton, who has voiced opposition to the idea of a regional transportation authority, is helping work on a plan that would allow buses to use the shoulder areas on Highway 1, to save even more time for commuters from the West Shore.

As well, Colwood, View Royal, BC Transit and the transit commission are investigating options for a rapid transit corridor along Island Highway between the Highway 1 on-ramp and Goldstream Avenue.

RELATED: High construction costs send Douglas bus lane project $2.2 million higher

The budgeted $4.3 million cost of the Douglas bus lanes is being shared by the province and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, with work expected to wrap up this fall. Construction will include concrete and asphalt paving, sidewalk and boulevard restoration and improvements, tree and vegetation replacement, new line painting and new signal infrastructure.

Rob Fleming, the NDP Education Minister and the MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake, where this project is taking place, has seen traffic issues on the Douglas corridor grow over the years and calls the situation “an important congestion problem to solve.”

“We’ve always known it’s about more than building one intersection, it’s about having different travelling options, and public transit can’t be stuck in traffic,” he said, making reference to the McKenzie interchange project. “We need to get more people out of their vehicles and onto public transportation and the way to do that is to be able to make it fast, reliable and efficient – then we will grow the ridership.”

Fleming gave kudos to BC Transit for its efficiencies and ability to move people, but said projects like the bus priority lanes on Douglas are a good long-term use of funding. “With these kind of infrastructure investments, everybody’s commutes are going to be sped up, and that’s good for the economy.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, whose staff are overseeing the construction contracting process, said the completion of the Douglas bus lanes project is “the first step towards a rapid transit system that connects the downtown to the entire region.”

Giving area residents and visitors better options for moving in and out of the city’s downtown means they can “spend less time and money stuck in traffic and more of their day doing what they love,” she said.

For more information on the Victoria region bus lane project, visit bit.ly/2F6Wf4L.

editor@vicnews.com

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