The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has proposed a plan to designate 'bus only' lanes on Douglas Street during rush hour.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has proposed a plan to designate 'bus only' lanes on Douglas Street during rush hour.

Victoria transit board recommends bus-only lanes for Douglas Street

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has suggested converting two lanes on Douglas Street to bus-only lanes by September

Come September, your commute in to downtown Victoria could be noticeably longer or noticeably shorter – depending on your travel choices.

A report from the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, looking at short-term strategies to get B.C. Transit buses moving through traffic faster, suggests designating two lanes on Douglas Street as bus-only during rush hour, by this fall.

“We’re convinced that if you can show people that their commute can be shortened and that they can see buses going past them while they’re stuck in gridlock, the number of people who choose to take a bus increases dramatically,” said Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, chair of the VRTC.

The Douglas Street pilot project would stretch from Hillside Avenue to Belleville Street, and is deemed an inexpensive solution to alleviate congestion.

According to the report released this week, the conversion wouldn’t require upgrades to existing infrastructure, and signage and paint indicating bus-only lane hours would make up the majority of the $600,000 cost. It’s believed the transit right-of-way would save up to four minutes on each bus trip.

“It’s a practical plan, and a relatively inexpensive way we think we can get some immediate gains,” Brice said.

The proposal sees the outer lanes along Douglas Street used for buses only for two hours during the morning commute and two hours during the evening commute. The lanes would return to normal use outside of these hours.

Slightly longer-term goals, which will continue to be discussed, include creating bus queue-jumper lanes in Saanich on McKenzie Avenue, at Quadra Street and Shelbourne Street, and along the Island Highway in Colwood and View Royal.

Constructing queue jumper lanes, which would give buses priority at intersections, requires acquiring land to build out the right-of-way. “They’re right on the immediate planning docket, as well, but the answers aren’t as obvious as just setting aside lanes,” Brice said.

Saanich, Victoria, Colwood and View Royal councils, along with the Capital Regional District’s planning, transportation and protective services committee, will look at the plans for discussion and approval. Residents will have an opportunity at the meetings to voice their opinions.

Meribeth Burton, spokesperson for B.C. Transit, said the goal is to also host public consultations by mid-June.

The short-term plans don’t change the fact the region is still looking at a long-term transportation strategy that could include rapid bus or light-rail transit.

“This is incremental. As we look out into the future, Uptown will provide the hub for whatever transit system is envisioned for our area,” Brice said. “So it’s important that all these steps lead ultimately to a regional system.”