Starting in September 2017, transit users on the coast will receive more frequent bus service, thanks to a decision by SCRD Directors on March 7 to substantially increase funding to Sunshine Coast Transit.
Route 90, the express service along the highway between the Langdale ferry and Sechelt, will have service every 30 minutes during peak hours, while Route 1, which circles through Lower Gibsons, traverses the Chaster-Pratt loop in Elphinstone and runs along Lower Road in Roberts Creek, will go to hourly service at peak times.
With this more frequent service, BC Transit will no longer try to match its buses to ferry arrivals, something which currently makes it difficult for buses to stay on time, and necessitates changing the bus schedule every time BC Ferries changes its schedule.
The cost to taxpayers in 2018 (the first full year of increased service) will work out to about $22 per average residential property. The total cost increase is $872,000 per year, of which the SCRD pays $466,000 and BC Transit pays the rest.
To implement this service, the SCRD will lease a half dozen additional mid-sized buses from BC Transit. These newer buses have higher fuel efficiency than older models. Staffing will increase by approximately 4.5 full time jobs, most of them drivers.
Directors Mark Lebbell (Roberts Creek), Lorne Lewis (Area E), Garry Nohr (Area B) and Jeremy Valeriote (Town of Gibsons) voted in favour of the March 7 motion to increase transit funding. Area F Director Ian Winn and District of Sechelt representative Doug Wright voted against. Pender Harbour is not part of the transit service function so Frank Mauro did not vote.
Winn expressed concern that taxpayers in West Howe Sound, especially on Keats and Gambier Islands, pay for service that many of them do not receive. He favoured a much more gradual expansion.
“If we had a crystal ball that said that our population was going to increase and there’s going to be rapid building on the Sunshine Coast over the next five years, then that would certainly increase the tax base and we’d be able to afford it. But that’s not what I’m hearing,” said Winn.
Lebbell spoke strongly in favour of transit at the SCRD board table. In his March 2017 Directors newsletter, he stated: “I have been a long-time supporter of an enhanced Transit service, as it simultaneously addresses pressing ecological, social and economic concerns.”