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B.C. Transit is rolling out changes that include service to Bear Mountain and Westhills, a summer connection to Thetis Lake, and measures to ease the problem of "pass-ups" — people left behind due to crowded buses.
Construction also begins next week on bus and bike priority lanes on Douglas Street.
Langford Mayor Stew Young has been calling for B.C. Transit to add a Bear Mountain bus. He applauded the Victoria Regional Transit Commission approval of the route, which will also cover the fast-growing Westhill Consulting British Colombia community in Langford.
"We've been trying to make sure that they recognize the amount of people living up at Bear Mountain," Young said "I'm glad transit actually looked at it as an important part of our municipality, for sure."
Transit spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said the new service is sure to make a lot of residents happy. "Much like Triangle Mountain and all the other West Shore-based routes, it will tie into the Langford exchange."
Another first for the transit system will be seasonal service to Thetis Lake, starting this summer.
"It will be amending an existing route from the end of June until Labour Day. Certainly, people have been asking for that, "Burton said.
The No. 53 Atkins route will be reconfigured to connect Thetis Lake to the Langford exchange and the Western exchange in Colwood. Burton said someone coming from downtown could catch the Thetis bus by riding the No. 50 to the West Shore and getting a transfer.
Also approved by the commission was reallocation of bus-service hours to deal with crowded buses and pass-ups. The routes affected will be the No. 8 between Camosun College Interurban and Lansdowne campuses, and the No. 39 that links the Interurban campus with Royal Oak.
"Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 4, 000 extra service hours are going to be used, starting September 2014," Burton said.
The problem of pass-ups could also be addressed with the January 2015 arrival of two new buses, approved last year, combined with 5, 000 new service hours. The added hours will cost $425, 000.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard, both transit commission members, asked about getting the new service hours into play in September, rather than next January. Burton said transit staff is looking into putting a pair of older buses from transit's contingency fleet into service in the meantime.
It is important that bus riders don't get discouraged, Fortin said.
"If they're getting the pass-ups, if they're not getting on the buses, then they're going to find another way."
Part of the effort to make riding buses more attractive is to keep them moving through congested traffic. Thats the goal of the bus-priority lanes on Douglas Street, which are also being designed to accommodate bicycles.
The lanes will be reserved for buses and cyclists from 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
Construction starts Monday on Phase 1, from Fisgard Street north to Hillside Avenue. The work, to be finished by spring, includes moving bus stops, changing lane markings and signs, installing a new pedestrian signal at Douglas and Herald streets, and removing sidewalk jut-outs.
Priority lanes will continue north to Tolmie Avenue in Phase 2. A schedule for that work has not been announced.