Transit plans to expand service to UVic

Currently, UVic can accommodate 51 buses headed to campus during the Monday to Friday peak time between 8 and 9 a.m.

Nearly one quarter of all buses on the road between 8 and 9 a.m. in Greater Victoria are en route to or from the University of Victoria, yet some students are continually passed up by full buses. It’s a problem B.C. Transit and UVic hope to resolve with the creation of a new bus exchange.

B.C. Transit and the union representing bus drivers, Canadian Auto Workers Local 333, disagree on the number of passengers left behind. The union reports 29,296 “pass ups” between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, primarily on UVic and Camosun-bound routes, while B.C. Transit says a worst-case scenario would be closer to 20,000 passengers left behind during the same period.

Either way, UVic and B.C. Transit are planning to increase the number of buses headed to campus during peak morning hours – a goal that can only be achieved by expanding the number of bus bays at the university.

Currently, UVic can accommodate 51 buses headed to campus during the Monday to Friday peak time between 8 and 9 a.m.

The Finnerty Road bus exchange is at capacity, able to accommodate 14 buses. An area adjacent to the Student Union Building has provided temporary stops for three additional buses and UVic has identified a second temporary exchange area along Ring Road suitable for two more stops, should service from B.C. Transit increase.

“We’re waiting to hear from B.C. Transit on their need for that space and how it relates to their planning for service this coming year and beyond,” said Neill Connelly, director of campus planning and sustainability.

B.C. Transit expects UVic will need 30 bus bays to accommodate long-term growth. In keeping with its future plan, B.C. Transit hopes to see ridership to the school double by 2035.

UVic has identified four areas between Centennial Stadium and the Student Union Building as potential sites for a larger exchange, including an expansion of the current site. A budget and timeframe for the new exchange project have yet to be set.

“We have space. They’re the service provider,” Connelly said. “When they plan for new routes or additional buses to come to campus, we’ve indicated we’ll make the space available. There are no limitations in terms of that additional service coming to campus.”

Student society representatives from UVic and Camosun College have been working with CAW 333 to increase transit funding. The student groups applauded B.C. Transit’s restoration of 7,000 service hours on routes across the region this month.

“We’re excited that students are leading the charge,” said Meribeth Burton, B.C. Transit spokesperson.

Discussion at UVic around staggering the start of morning classes to ease the influx of students arriving at 8:30 a.m. has also begun.

nnorth@saanichnews.com