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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Climate Justice Victoria calls on UVic to join campaign for bus lanes

Bottlenecking in holiday traffic refocuses need for rapid transit in the CRD

Environment
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Climate Justice Victoria calls on UVic to join campaign for bus lanes

Bottlenecking in holiday traffic refocuses need for rapid transit in the CRD

Photo: BC Transit
Photo: BC Transit
Environment
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Climate Justice Victoria calls on UVic to join campaign for bus lanes

Bottlenecking in holiday traffic refocuses need for rapid transit in the CRD

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Climate Justice Victoria calls on UVic to join campaign for bus lanes

A statutory holiday aligning with the end of the school March break will make for heavy traffic into and out of Victoria this weekend. For travelers coming to Victoria, it will be a reminder of the need for potential rapid transit solutions that can reduce commuter times for drivers and transit riders.  

The McKenzie corridor “pinch” that the CRD hopes to alleviate with infrastructure enhancements to the Colquitz bridges will certainly be pinching drivers hard at either end of the holiday. Anticipated heavy traffic won’t be commuter-related but will highlight the urgency for innovative solutions to regional transportation challenges and the need to reduce road congestion. There’s also the goal of meeting CleanBCs 25% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets by 2030. 

Acknowledging the municipalities’ objectives to reduce driving and increase walking, bicycling, and public transit trips exponentially, organizations such as Better Island Transit, and Climate Justice Victoria are among those asking decision-makers to do more, more quickly with their existing plans. 

Climate Justice Victoria (CJV) is a collective of local organizers and civil society organizations working for a cleaner environment and a Green New Deal on Lekwungen & W̱SÁNEĆ Territories. The group wants UVic to advocate for bus lanes on McKenzie to make transit more accessible to students, faculty, and the wider community.

Access to efficient rapid public transit service into Victoria depends on which community you’re looking at. Between Victoria and Duncan, only four daily bus trips are scheduled and there are no off-peak or reverse commute trips. Weekend service is

minimal and the fare, at $10, is four times a local fare. Coming in from Sooke, transit riders can rely on 43 daily trips at $2.50 fares, serving over 20% of peak-period trips.

Where is the plan for improve region-to-region transportation?

According to the Island Coastal Inter-Community Transportation Study, the transportation and infrastructure ministry is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand Island highways. The provincial and federal governments announced $249M in new public transit funding last year but offered no plan or funding to improve interregional bus transportation on the Island.

CVJ supports a dedicated bus lane along McKenzie Avenue into the UVic campus. “When it comes down to allocating road space, in the past, transit riders got studies and cars got priority,” the group says.

While it praises Saanich for its climate action policy, CJV is critical of the council’s inertia, pointing to the Shelbourne Valley Action Plan that has been 15 years in the planning. It points to Victoria’s Douglas Ave. transit lane ambitions that “have been gathering dust for half a century.”

Erick Dougherty, principal at Ecopath Planning, would like to see Saanich take Nike’s advice and just do it.  “Why can't Saanich just be like, let's do it. Let's get it done!” 

“During the pandemic,” he said, “Berlin built more bus lanes in one year than it had in the previous decade.” 

Meanwhile, over in Germany

Taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic slowdown, The City of Berlin added 18.4 km of bus lanes and a further 2.2 km in 2022 and now 123km of dedicated bus lanes wind their way through the streets of the German capital.

Last year, The Martlet reported that Climate Justice Victoria, the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS), and other student groups had already endorsed the BC Climate Emergency Campaign’s open letter on transportation that called for reallocating “road space from private automobiles to transit lanes, protected bike & roll lanes, pedestrian priority spaces, and space for trees.”

The endorsement gestures to on-campus infrastructure bus transit enhancements that are already two years old. 

UVic commuters could use some support

In 2022, the federal and provincial governments and the Victoria Regional Transit Commission invested a combined $4.5M to enhance UVic’s bus exchange, the start and terminus of 17K daily transit trips to campus.

CJV says there should be municipal transportation initiatives to complement that expenditure. It’s calling on Saanich to paint 24/7 bus lanes on all four-lane and wider sections along McKenzie. The organization has also published an online petition to build bus lanes on McKenzie that it says would quicken the daily commute of thousands living in the West Shore and up-Isand.

Victoria rental costs have pushed UVic students to seek housing options far afield and in more remote locations. “Certain bus routes feel inaccessible to students because some are living pretty far away from campus and feel that their only option right now is to drive,” says CJV representative Mary Stuart, a UVic political ecology student.

UVic’s Sustainability Action Plan goal of increasing transit, cycling, and carpooling to 70% of the modal split would help the CRD meet CleanBC’s target of reducing traffic by 25% by 2030. To achieve that target, the university needs Saanich’s support. “Unfortunately,” said Dougherty, “Saanich seems to suffer from a kind of cultural inertia when it comes to approving and implementing audacious transportation plans.” 

“Just painting those designated bus lanes on McKenzie feels like low-hanging fruit,” Stuart says. “Something that seems to be already in the vague plans for Saanich but really just needs pushing to actually get that done so that we're not waiting two decades for those lines to get painted.” 

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