New RapidBus strategy aims to address West Shore transit woes

Two weeks after The Discourse reported on West Shore transit solutions, BC Transit announced a RapidBus strategy that will see its flagship route run between the West Shore and downtown Victoria.

A faster, more reliable transit corridor in the Capital Regional District is on the way, the B.C. government says, and the first phase will focus on connecting the West Shore to downtown Victoria.

Less than two weeks after The Discourse published a story about improving bus transit to ease West Shore traffic issues, BC Transit released a Victoria Regional RapidBus Implementation Strategy.

Read now: The top solution to West Shore traffic woes? A dedicated bus lane, this expert says

The strategy outlines an improved, high-capacity transit system between the West Shore and downtown Victoria, as well as possible new routes in the McKenzie and Peninsula areas. BC Transit says RapidBus service between the West Shore and downtown Victoria could reduce commute times by 15 to 20 minutes during peak periods, once bus-only lanes are in place.

What is RapidBus?

RapidBus is more than a faster version of existing bus service. It’s designed to look and feel different for riders, all with quickly moving large numbers of people in mind. According to the report, the buses will have different branding and separate stops from the existing transit system.

BC Transit says RapidBus includes delivering consistent and frequent bus service, limiting stops to high passenger volume areas, expanding transit priority infrastructure and adding stations that are comfortable and attractive to riders. The goal is for RapidBus to outperform personal automobile travel when it comes to speed, comfort and reliability. 

The Victoria Regional RapidBus Implementation Strategy report says RapidBus transit features busses that are high-capacity with all-door boarding, off-board fare payment, bike storage and real-time information. 

Intersection treatments to prioritize RapidBus could include not allowing right or left turns for vehicles at certain intersections as well as traffic signal timing changes and traffic signal priority for busses. Bus queue-jump lanes could also be part of the plan, BC Transit says.

West Shore to get first RapidBus line

Phase 1 of this strategy, which focuses on the West Shore to Downtown corridor, is expected to be complete in the next three years. BC Transit, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and local municipalities are working together to improve bus infrastructure and service along the corridor, a report from BC Transit says. Improvements include upgrades to bus stops and changes at the street level that give buses priority in traffic.

According to the report, the West Shore Line will connect Langford Centre Station to the Legislature Station in downtown Victoria. There will also be a single transfer connection to the UVIC and Peninsula Lines at the Uptown/Saanich Exchange. The West Shore line will connect regional centres of downtown Victoria, Uptown, Colwood Corners and Langford Centre as well as other urban nodes along the route.

The West Shore route will have 22 stations in each direction with options for fewer stops to reduce travel times, according to the report. Other key features in the West Shore to Downtown corridor plan include extended curb bus lanes on the Douglas southbound route and allowances for busses to use the Highway 1 shoulder. On the Old Island Highway, busses will jump the queue at intersections. Within 10 years, those may be upgraded to dedicated bus lanes.

With dedicated bus lanes, the travel time between Langford and downtown would be similar at rush hour compared with non-peak travel times, according to the report.

RapidBus Network Westshore
Planned RapidBus lines and phases in the Capital Regional District. Screenshot from BC Transit Victoria Regional RapidBus Implementation Strategy report

So far, the ministry has added dedicated bus lanes along Douglas Street north of Herald Street, through to Tillicum Road on Highway 1. 

Improving transit is key for West Shore communities

With the West Shore’s population estimated to grow by 22 per cent in the next seven years, and locals already noticing increased traffic on arterial roads and neighbourhood streets, the need for a comprehensive transit solution is desired by many, as The Discourse has reported

Eric Doherty, a transportation planner who does independent consulting, previously told The Discourse that the trick to convincing residents to leave their vehicles at home and choose public transit instead is reliable and comfortable bus service — the kind where busses offering a pleasant ride show up at consistent, short intervals.

By 2038, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission’s (VRTC) goal is to increase total daily trips from its current level of 80,000, to 200,000. 

Westshore Line Stations RapidBus
The planned West Shore to downtown Victoria RapidBus line, stations and designated urban areas. Screenshot from BC Transit Victoria Regional RapidBus Implementation Strategy report

The new RapidBus strategy includes a targeted minimum bus frequency of every 10 minutes, with higher frequency as demand requires.

Planning and analysis of the West Shore Transit Network is set to begin this summer, according to the BC Transit report. This means the existing local and frequent transit network will be reviewed to prepare the West Shore for integration with the RapidBus service in the near future.

BC Transit’s corporate and strategic planning director Matthew Boyd told The Discourse that BC Transit will look into how local service on the West Shore feeds into a RapidBus corridor. Public engagement about this with West Shore residents is expected in the coming months. [end]

Read The Discourse’s previous reporting about transportation:

June 18, 2021: The top solution to West Shore traffic woes? A dedicated bus lane, this expert says

Nov. 4, 2020: Transportation strategy falls short, say West Shore mayors

Oct. 6, 2020: Is there a future for passenger rail on Vancouver Island?

Oct. 6, 2020: ‘The most studied piece of track in North America:’ Breaking down the business case for passenger rail on Vancouver Island

Oct. 6, 2020: The complicated history of Vancouver Island’s railway corridor

This Delving Into Development article is made possible in part with funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Journalists for Human Rights. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced.

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