Tuesday April 11, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated 4:44 pm – April 12, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
A new faster bus route between the west shore and the downtown core of the capital region is now in motion.
Called Blink RapidBus and branded with a bright orange visual theme, Route 95 will make fewer stops and therefore travel more frequently between the westshore and downtown, than the now-previous Route 50 Langford/Downtown bus.
Riders will see a bus arrive every 7 to 8 minutes during peak travel times, and a minimum of every 15 minutes at any Blink RapidBus stop between 7 am and 10 pm Monday – Saturday and 8 am to 10 pm on Sundays.
The new Route 95 will provide 21 more additional weekday trips than the existing Route 50 (a 12% increase), 11 additional trips on Saturdays (up 8%), and 20 more trips on Sundays (18% increase).
Anyone who starts their ride in Sooke will — during non-peak travel times — be required to transfer to the Route 95 at the Langford Exchange if their destination is Downtown Victoria.
Further improvements to infrastructure between Goldstream Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway in Colwood and View Royal are being planned to make the 95 Blink RapidBus even faster.
Fleming pleased about the new route:
The announcement was made by Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) Minister Rob Fleming in downtown Victoria today, on the east driveway outside the BC Legislative Buildings. He higlighted that the route comes down Highway 1 (Trans Canada), a responsibility under MOTI.
Fleming also highlighted the fast-growing dynamic of the west shore region (with rapid housing growth primarily seen in Langford, Colwood, Sooke over the past 10 years), and that “it’s not going to stop anytime soon”. His ministry is of course acutely aware of traffic load on roads around south Vancouver Island as the population and commercial activity increases.
Fleming was joined at the podium by Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) commissioner Marianne Alto (Mayor of Victoria), Kevin Murdoch (Mayor Oak Bay), Dean Murdock (Mayor of Saanich), Grace Lore, MLA (Victoria-Beacon Hill), and Cindy Ridout, BC Transit Vice President of Strategy and Public Affairs.
Heavy transit use by university and college students is a key ridership target as well. Both the University of Victoria and Camosun College are in Saanich. Government workers might already use buses to commute, with Route 95 making it faster if they live in Langford, Colwood or Sooke.
No west shore mayors today:
Obvious by their absence in front of the camera were the mayors of the three municipalities whose constituents will benefit the most by this improved route: Sooke Mayor Maja Tait (who chairs the VRTC) who had a scheduling conflict in co-hosting a public coffee meeting with Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison in Sooke; Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson (who is off sick); and first-term Colwood Mayor Doug Kobayashi (though Colwood Councillor Misty Olsen attended in the crowd). Also not attending was Metchosin Mayor Marie-Térèse Little (who sits on the VRTC).
Fleming did note in his remarks the June 2021 launch of the faster West Shore route which was attended by the Mayors of Colwood, View Royal and others at the time.
Perhaps the government protocol to have only mayors at the podium is what led to the visual disconnect, or perhaps it was just logistics (as Sooke and Colwood mayors would be busy with preparations for their council meetings this evening).
The regional footprint today seemed set to reorient transit improvements with a regional focus, highlighting downtown Victoria as the destination point. Downtown Victoria is a commercial zone that is struggling to keep workers in offices (with working-from-home still the post-pandemic trend), shoppers in stores, and tourists out and about). Today the west shore seemed more like a feeder area for the benefit of downtown, though Minister Fleming did mention some reasons to head out to Langford for events.
Live media announcements take a lot of organization. But no one could have predicted the unseasonably mid-April cold weather with a strong wind that suddenly made a priority out of making sure the media tents didn’t blow over.
First announced back in February:
Back on February 15, BC Transit had already announced the April 10 launch of the flagship Blink RapidBus line between the West Shore and Downtown Victoria. That was in part to launch a contest.
Competing with the vehicle culture:
The vision of Blink Route 95 is to deliver transit service that outperforms the personal automobile in speed, comfort and reliability. The goal of RapidBus is to connect areas with the highest travel demands in the region using a combination of corridor treatments, branded services, and improved station amenities.
There were nudges in today’s announcement about new ways to think about the use of buses between the west shore and downtown… not just for work but for attending community and sporting events. And to expand the tourism lens. It was just last week that Fleming announced future electrification for the cruise ships that dock at Ogden Point; those visitors might like to visit the west shore if it seems convenient (Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson attended that cruise ship announcement on April 5).
But the assumption of point-to-point bus transportation is that riders have only only activity or destination in mind. In that regard, taking the bus will not replace use of personal vehicles which facilitate multiple stops for meetings and errands, as well as providing storage when shopping or for business support.
Meanwhile, Blink RapidBus builds on recent bus priority lane investments along Douglas Street and the Trans-Canada Highway, which saved 20 minutes for customers in peak morning and afternoon commute periods.
Recycling bus stops:
The bus stops that will no longer be served by the Route 95 will continue to serve other routes in the West Shore and Downtown.
However, one stop pair in the West Shore is being discontinued (see map below).
Signage has been placed at bus stops outlining the changes (the bright orange is intended to grab attention for that), and customers are encouraged to find more information on the BC Transit Blink info page.
“None of the bus stop removals associated with the RapidBus implementation were made lightly and were made based on a combined assessment of passenger boardings, stop spacing and feedback from the Local Government Partners in the West Shore,” said BC Transit ahead of the launch.
Over time, customers will notice that larger, branded RapidBus stations like the stop at Douglas and Cloverdale in Victoria will be installed along the West Shore-Downtown route.
As a result of the new Blink RapidBus from Langford to Downtown, some changes were made to the Route 61 Sooke to improve service frequency and create efficiencies where possible along provincial Highway 14.
Overall the Route 61 will have significant all-day service improvements, however, during non-peak travel times, customers will be required to transfer to the Route 95 at the Langford Exchange if their destination is Downtown Victoria. Customers with a DayPASS can easily transfer and customers without a DayPASS will need to pay the fare for the transfer.
Sooke Mayor weighs in:
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait is now chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. Her quote in BC Transit’s news release today was about the broader Greater Victoria region:
“Launching the Blink RapidBus service, that will move people around our region quickly and reliably, is great news for the Victoria region. I’m hopeful that the excitement and momentum around the new Blink West Shore-Downtown line will help us work towards more rapid transit service to connect people to places they want to go in and around the South Island.”
Blink Rapid Bus to launch April 10 in west shore (Mar 27, 2023)
West Shore-Downtown RapidBus service launches in April (Feb 15, 2023)
COVID disrupts BC Transit services (Jan 27, 2022)
BC Transit drives forward during COVID-19 (April 24, 2020)
NextRide website & app launched by BC Transit (July 28, 2019)
West shore commute highlighted in 118-bus announcement (July 18, 2019)
South island transportation strategy will come with funds (Jan 31, 2019)
==== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a long-standing publication in the west shore of South Vancouver Island (fourth in a series that began with MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020, which then emerged as Island Social Trends in mid-2020).
Island Social Trends editor Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Cert PR is a long-time journalist, delivering news insights through a socioeconomic lens.
IslandSocialTrends.ca covers news of the west shore, Greater Victoria region and south Vancouver Island area, with insights on provincial and national issues.