More on the empty 7th transit commission seat

After I reported that the seventh seat was empty, I emailed Joanna Morton, who works for BC Transit in media relations. When asked about the seat, she replied that:

BC Transit hasn’t heard if a seventh commission member would be added to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. Members of the Commission are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, not BC Transit.

So where exactly in the bureaucracy it is? As the FAQ on the Lieutenant Governors site neatly explains:

Legally, it refers to the Lieutenant Governor acting on and with the advice of the Executive Council or Cabinet.

This probably means that the appointment is waiting on the provincial cabinet to approve it, although why that is I don’t know. And more importantly: Is the current commission not legally empowered to act as a regional transit commission because it lacks a full seven members?

Where is the seventh Transit Commission member?

Why has the Victoria Regional Transit Commission only currently have six members on it? Since the 2008, the seventh seat has sat empty. According to the BC Transit Act, “A regional transit commission consists of not fewer than 7 members”, yet the commission currently only has six. The act then goes on to state:

The following persons must be appointed under subsection (4) as members of the regional transit commission for the greater Victoria metropolitan area:

(a) the Mayor of Victoria;
(b) a Victoria councillor;
(c) the Mayor of Esquimalt or Oak Bay;
(d) the Mayor of Saanich;
(e) a Saanich councillor;
(f) one of the following:
(i)  the Mayor of Sidney;
(ii)  the Mayor of North Saanich;
(iii)  the Mayor of Central Saanich;
(g) one of the following:
(i)  the Mayor of Colwood;
(ii)  the Mayor of Metchosin;
(iii)  the Mayor of View Royal;
(iv)  the Mayor of Langford;
(v)  the Mayor of the Highlands;
(vi)  the Mayor of Sooke;
(vii)  the electoral area director of the Juan de Fuca electoral area.

As the current commission consists of Oak Bay Mayor Chris Causton as Chair, Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, Sooke Mayor Janet Evans, Central Saanich Mayor Jack Mar, Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, and Saanich Councillor Susan Brice, by my reckoning we are merely missing from the list above (b) a Victoria Councillor.

According to the Sept 24th, 2009 Victoria Council meeting minutes, the following motion was carried:

It was moved by Councillor Coleman, seconded by Councillor Thornton-Joe, that Council rescind
Councillor Geoff Young’s nomination to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and nominate
Councillor John Luton to the Commission.

Yet, there is no record that Geoff Young ever sat on the Transit Commission prior to this date. The 2008 annual report (PDF) makes no mention of any of the councillors sitting on the commission, only Mayor Fortin. I have emailed BC Transit a few weeks back but as of yet have not yet received a response.

Solutions for empty buses on the 15

Yesterday I talked about some of the teething challenges that the new UVic/Downtown express bus, the 15, nee Dogwood Line, was having. Thankfully a lot of these problems have fairly easy fixes:

  1. New-ness – This will only be solved by time and it will.
  2. Advertising – For BC Transit’s part, they could use some of that empty advertising space, both inside and out, to help promote the new line. Metro in Los Angeles has run some pretty good ads and increased choice ridership by a decent amount as a result. Express buses are loved by choice riders. UVic/Camosun and their respective student societies should work to get people on the ground to pamphlet their bus stops and let people know about the new buses, especially with the separated 15 stop at UVic.
  3. Stops – Most of these are fairly easy fixes as well.
  • UVic – As I mentioned, a lot of UVic students are opportunistic riders, so the riders of the 15 will come from the 4, 7, 11 and 14. As can be seen from the image to the right, there is a massive amount of space between the exchange and the SUB. Given there is no space in the exchange for the 15, kicking out another bus to make room would keep the downtown-bound routes together. A logical route would be the 26, which is one of the busier routes, so would benefit from the extra space in front of the SUB, and its route only overlaps with a short section of McKenzie St. with the 39. Moving an existing bus line with established ridership is hard, but is easier than building up a new ridership if nobody knows the bus exists or is hard to easily find.
  • Placement of bus route stops @ UVic
    Placement of bus route stops @ UVic
  • Fort @ Douglas – The City of Victoria is fairly transit friendly and is likely to be amenable to removal of parking spots to expand the bus stop here. As a bonus, the spots are in front of the Municipal Finance Authority building, who don’t have the same concerns as a storefront retail business with regards to parking.

    Potential expansion of Fort @ Douglas stop
    Potential expansion of Fort @ Douglas stop
  • Fort before Richmond – A much harder stop, because the stop is on an island bounded by two roads, so it can’t be easily expanded. One option would be to have the 11 not stop here, as it stops just after Richmond about 100 m away, where the 15 currently does as well. This would keep the 14 and 15 at the same stop.

    Stop on Fort before Richmond, with two double-deckers superimposed
    Stop on Fort before Richmond, with two double-deckers superimposed
  1. Mistaken schedules – I don’t even know if BC Transit is even aware of this issue up ’til now, but this is a fairly easy fix.

As a last note, I think BC Transit should break out its express routes, the new 15, the 28 Express, the 70, etc. and brand them differently, much like Translink did with the B-Lines.This kind of product differentiation is a great way to attract choice riders, people who could drive but choose to take a bus. Of course, it isn’t news that transit agencies are bad at marketing their own products, a fact which hurts their cause immensely.

(Aerial images are from the CRD Natural Areas atlas, with text and highlighting done with the GIMP and Inkscape)

Weekly news roundup

The Times Colonist is running a series of articles called Outlook 2010, covering a vast variety of issues around Victoria. Two today caught my eye:

In other news, everybody’s favourite forestry company property developer Western Forest Products is off selling land again (Times Colonist), this time in the north Island area. This as the CRD has now drafting a new bylaw governing the Juan de Fuca lands that include those WFP is trying to develop.

What really gets me about these removals from the Tree Farm Licenses is that are an explicit violation of the social contract that timber companies signed up to when they took on the TFLs. In return for access to Crown lands for forestry, the companies had to operate local sawmills and manage their private lands “sustainably”. Guess the second two parts of that agreement have kind of been forgotten, as the Times Colonist article says,

Cash-strapped WFP wants to concentrate its forestry operations on Crown land and needs capital to renovate its mills.

This kind of bait and switch isn’t exactly new, as the Dogwood Initiative points when looking at the Dunsmuir land grant for the E&N.

In a slightly better note, they have discovered a use for broom: biomass fuel (Goldstream News Gazette). While that broom is going to other places, I wonder if enough broom could be pulled out of some of the other parks in the region to feed Dockside Green’s biomass plant. As far as I know, they are still looking for biomass to burn, a task made harder by the lack of sawdust and wood chips from the shutdown of many of the mills on Vancouver Island.

Daily news roundup

  • The sewage issue continues to barrel along, with a decision expected by Wednesday. The latest twist is that a proposed plant may straddle the border between the new CRD land and the existing Saanich land. Both the Times Colonist and the News Group aka Oak Bay News have stories on this and if you want to
  • Although both View Royal and Oak Bay continued their composting trial, there is no sign of it spreading to other parts of the region. However, there are plenty of other options, as the Times Colonist pointed out today.
  • Due to a power failure, one of the keynotes at the just-finished Canadian Institute of Planners AGM in Niagara was done by candle-light. Unexpected irony as the theme was coping with climate change.

Transit & Rail

The ridership risk of introducing the 12 Kenmore is not that performance targets for community bus could not be met, but rather than at key school oriented times, community bus capacity would be exceeded requiring the introduction of conventional transit vehicles on this route.

  • Come January there will be a whole pile of new services, including the new Dogwood Line, late night buses and more service hours. See the Transit Commission report (PDF) for more. The Dogwood Line is the first attempt at a B-Line style bus route in Victoria, which is a good thing, especially given just how busy the bus routes to UVic from Downtown are.