Previous plans to connect two distinct parts of Sidney may get a second run in the future.
Sidney’s financial plan for 2020-2024 calls for the hiring of a transit consultant to assist with planning and analysis for a pilot trolley service to connect downtown Sidney with the municipality’s west side in 2022 at a cost of $20,000. The item itself did not come up during Monday’s budget discussions, set to resume Feb. 18.
The idea of a trolley service first appeared in connection with the proposed, since-shelved Gateway project, a $35-million shopping centre proposed on land owned by the Victoria Airport Authority on the southeast corner of Beacon Avenue, west of Highway 17.
The development, which gained council’s approval in September 2016 despite considerable opposition from downtown merchants and other residents, would have become the largest shopping centre on the Saanich Peninsula, but failed to launch. Citing escalating construction costs, Omicron cancelled the project in October 2018.
Sidney’s interest in the idea of a trolley dates back to at least June 2016, following a letter from the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society, in which the society suggested a trolley service connecting the proposed Gateway development with Sidney’s downtown in a manner similar to a service operating at the time in Langford as way to mitigate fears that the new centre would undermine downtown merchants.
“Such a trolley would help to unify the two Sidney shopping districts and would serve as an attractive, unique experience for visitors and residents alike,” said Susan Simosko, then president and chair of Sidney Business Improvement Area Society. “We urge [council] to request that the proponent, either alone or in collaboration with the VAA [Victoria Airport Authority], build this into the development design and offerings as a way of ‘giving back to the community.’”
Coun. Peter Wainright picked up on this proposal in July 2016, when he proposed a motion asking staff to bring forward a “report and budget proposal for a trolley service pilot project” for the year in which Gateway was to open and that staff consider appropriate locations for trolley stops in the development of Sidney’s West Side local area plan and the final plans for the Gateway development.
Writing in a report to council, Wainwright estimated the first-year cost of the pilot project would be $100,000 to $120,000 for the trolley operation and $20,000 in terms of startup costs.
“It is suggested that the proposed trolley service would mitigate some of the negative effects of the proposed Gateway development on our downtown as well as providing an amenity of benefit to our industrial area and visiting boaters,” said Wainwright. “If council sees merit in the proposal it is suggested that at an appropriate time, staff consult with the SBIA and Sidney-North Saanich Industrial Group about the proposed route and schedule.”
Councillors unanimously approved Wainwright’s motion, but a council resolution in early 2017 tabled the project until 2018, the same year the Gateway project — then under the name of Sidney Crossings — died.
Langford also cancelled its trolley line, run as a public-private partnership with Wilsons Transportation, in May 2017 because of low ridership figures.
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