Late last year BC Transit introduced a new express route to UVic from downtown, the 15 (previously called the Dogwood Line). While this is only the second week of the new UVic/Camosun term, the buses are very empty, with the 14 still taking the bulk of the passengers along their (mostly) shared route. Why?
- The route is new – New services take some time for people to get used to their existence, so early ridership numbers are not usually good indicator of future performance. However, I don’t think this is the only problem.
- Confusion of signage – While in the planning stages, BC Transit started the process of adding the new route to the electronic signs on the buses. But most of this early work was undone when the transit commission decided against calling it the Dogwood Line, so only a portion of the buses were tagged with 15 UVic/Downtown Express and the rest had Dogwood Line. By this point this appears to have been fixed.
- Advertising – The new route has had zero advertising and barely even got mentioned in any papers. Any notice got shoved alongside the mention of the new 10 route along Bay. There are a bunch of organizations that could have stepped up to the plate for this. First and foremost is BC Transit itself, but the confusion of naming mentioned in the second point didn’t help. UVic Students Society and their Camosun equivalent, plus UVic and Camosun themselves could have gotten involved. So should VIHA, which runs the Royal Jubilee Hospital that lies about half-way along the route.
- Stops – 15 is designed as a limited stop bus. Largely due to lack of space, there are a whole bunch of problems with the specific choices for stops:
- The UVic stop is in front of the SUB, not in the main transit exchange. This is because of lack of space, but better planning could have made this easier. This placement means that the natural ridership of the 15, the current users of the 4, 7, 11 & 14, don’t see the 15 when they are waiting at their usual stops.
- There are missed stops along the way that make no sense. Two of the biggest stops they miss are Fort @ Douglas and Fort just before Richmond. Both are major boarding points for the 14 and to a lesser extent, the 11.
- Mistaken schedules at stops – Some of the downtown stops show the 15 on the printed schedule at the stop but are not actually stops for the 15. This just adds confusion.
None of these are intractable problems and they will be solved, one or another. Tomorrow I will talk about some of the solutions that I see. The addition of the 15 has been a long time in coming and I am glad BC Transit is finally starting to think more about express & limited stop buses.