When bus priority lanes opened on Douglas Street on Nov. 5, a Victoria taxi driver with more than 50 years experience wrote a letter asking for access to the new lanes without being fined the $109 penalty.
“We are in the people-moving business as well,” B.J. Roberts, a driver with Victoria Taxi, said. “Therefore the taxi industry and the limo industry should be permitted to use them without being fined.”
He said with how the bus schedule spaces out their vehicles, few buses are travelling at the same time in the same lane, leaving plenty of room for cabs and limos. But Susan Brice, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission Chair who Roberts sent his letter to, said there are 860 scheduled bus trips along Douglas Street a day, transporting around 18,000 passengers. Brice said 40 per cent of people travelling through the corridor are bus passengers.
“We are well aware of his interest in having taxis considered,” Brice said. “We are absolutely committed to having these lanes designated as bus priority. Any change in that designation would require very careful consideration of all of the partners. That is something we wouldn’t be entertaining at this time.”
Roberts also sent his letter to all of the owners of taxi companies in the city. He said he hasn’t had a response from Brice since he sent her the letter on Nov. 3, but Brice said he sent his letter to the wrong email address.
The Douglas Street bus priority lane is part of a “highly used bus corridor,” Brice said. High-occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV), which would allow vehicles with multiple passengers and are used in cities including Vancouver, were another option Roberts requested in his letter. The lanes chosen in Victoria were instead designed to take buses out of regular traffic, which would in turn free up space in the other lanes.
“That enables public transit to become an even better option,” Brice said, and could encourage people driving to take the bus instead.
The bus priority lanes have been planned for years, and construction which once congested Douglas Street was completed in November. Brice said she and the Transit Commission are pleased with how well the lanes are operating since opening on Nov. 5. The Douglas Street lanes, Brice added, are just one part of a network of such projects between the province and the West Shore that will ultimately save commute time.