Buses going up and down Douglas Street make up three per cent of the traffic, but carry 40 per cent of people moving along the capital city corridor.
The statistic puts focus on the current way people get in, out and around the region’s core, and is one that will likely grow in public transit’s favour as Rapidbus routes roll out in the coming years.
“When we think about investments, we’re thinking about moving people and not vehicles,” said James Wadsworth, a manager of project development with BC Transit.
Rapidbus is defined as a form of transit service that outperforms a personal automobile in terms of speed, comfort and reliability. Council on Sept. 29 heard an update on the regional Rapidbus implementation and how the process will impact Victoria and the look of the city.
The region can expect to see the Rapidbus system moving soon as its West Shore line is aiming for an early 2023 launch. That route will connect Langford to the B.C. legislature district. Construction of bus queue jumps and priority signals along Old Island Highway as part of the line are also set to begin next year.
BC Transit and Victoria are in about a year-long planning phase for transformational investments into Douglas Street and the downtown transit system, but officials said major infrastructure improvements could still be five years away.
The West Shore line is the first of three Rapidbus phases, but downtown is seen as central to every step as 40,000 commuters make their way into Victoria – which hosts 41 per cent of the region’s employment – every day. Almost all of BC Transit’s 32 regional routes also flow through the downtown.
The city has a goal of making public transit account for twice as many trips by 2030, going from 12.5 to 25 per cent. Getting there will hopefully be bolstered by the Rapidbus process.
Wadsworth said transit infrastructure in the downtown is aging and ready to be replaced. Part of BC Transit’s goal is to make it more comfortable for riders along Douglas Street, where sidewalks can get clogged up by people waiting for the bus during rush hour, he said.
BC Transit hopes to alleviate that congestion with modernized stops, street furniture and barrier-free sidewalks to improve accessibility for those with mobility issues. Beautifying the overall street with trees and public art is also part of the plan.
Any improvements will be coordinated with the city timelines around needed updates to Douglas Street’s underground utilities, signage or road surface.
Three distinct projects are part of the downtown Rapidbus implementation. The stretch between Finlayson to Discovery streets will see bus station improvements, while the rest of downtown and the legislature area are still in the planning phase.
The city and BC Transit are also looking at inspiration from what other cities around the world have done, including many where the main downtown corridor, like Douglas Street, acts as a transit mall.
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