Saanich neighbourhoods need better transit service

Rapid transit on Douglas is great but other Saanich neighbourhoods need better service, council says
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Douglas Street will be the future home of rapid transit now that both Saanich and Victoria councils have thrown their support behind the route.

However, Saanich needs to be more critical of B.C. Transit’s 25-year plan because such a geographically narrow focus could leave many of the municipality’s residents without quality service, Mayor Frank Leonard said Monday night.

“We need not be shy about (population centres) in our municipality that are not getting serviced now,” he said. “There are 25,000 people in Cedar Hill not getting adequate service.”

Coun. Dean Murdock agreed with Leonard’s notion that it doesn’t serve Saanich to concentrate on bringing rapid transit to Langford – expected to be heavily residential in 25 years – if that means neglecting Saanich’s already heavily-residential neighbourhoods.

“We’re looking at making a major infrastructure investment that goes out to the (Langford) that has projected growth in significant numbers but pales in comparison to pockets of the Saanich community,” Murdock said. “There are areas just within Saanich that are chronically underserved by public transit and have a population base significantly larger than even the projected growth for portions of that projected rapid transit corridor.”

The concerns arose during a presentation by transit planners on Monday. B.C. Transit was seeking council’s approval to make the Douglas Street corridor the location for rapid transit.

How it will look still remains up in the air. Rapid bus service or light rail, as well as lane alignment and location of bike lanes are among the many questions left to be answered.

“It’s pretty critical that we get things right. We’re not going to get a second chance at this, that’s for sure,” said Coun. Vic Derman, acknowledging his appreciation that B.C. Transit asked for approval from council and the public before moving ahead.

Transit planner Emily Flett told council open houses will be held in 2011 to examine the different technologies and their benefits as well as costs associated with the different options.

“We need longer term views. This is about making an investment that’s going to last us into the long-term,” he said, citing greenhouse gas emissions and attractiveness to riders as major factors in that decision.

He suggested that Saanich and Victoria councils – as they share jurisdictional boundaries along Douglas street – hold a joint meeting to discuss the long-term plan.

“As we are preparing to see significant redevelopment in both these communities, we must ensure we’re doing that in harmony and promoting the shared vision for that corridor,” Murdock said.