Busses are a good thing, actually. If you believe (as I do) that our city should prioritize equity, economic prosperity, and the environment, you should be supportive of this exchange. There have been many people writing to local papers about why the city should not move forward with this exchange, but I believe they are wrong. Here’s why.
Having an exchange that allows for fast transfers could benefit the thousands of Nanaimo residents who either cannot or will not own a vehicle. The City and Regional District have big plans for transit expansion and at the centre of that vision is a new transit exchange. The plan looks to have a centrally located exchange that will allow local and regional busses to quickly enter and exit without having to leave the Island Highway. Such an exchange will allow for rapid connections between the Northern and Southern ends of our community. This is something that has been desperately needed for transit users who need a fast and frequent connection to and from the downtown core.
Top-down render of the transit exchange Downtown showing parking, bus pullouts. (City of Nanaimo)
What’s even more amazing about such a connection is it could help stabilize Nanaimo’s spiralling traffic problem. While it may not solve traffic, it provides commuters with options. People drive cars and people take the bus. People are people regardless of their mode of transit. When Nanaimo invests in greater transit, more people will take it. We can’t rely on everyone to drive a car. If we did, it would only worsen Nanaimo’s financial strain and put greater pressure on those who are unable to drive.
Transit is equitable; parking is not. While almost everyone can ride a bus; not everyone can drive a car. If your concern is about equitability in Nanaimo, you should support this exchange. Right now, the Nanaimo Regional District is working hard to get approval for the transit hour expansions for our busses. If our region gets approved, this will be a massive win for Nanaimo residents for whom a car is simply not on the table.
“The [Nanaimo bus] system used 56 buses to provide 130,000 hours of service and carried 3.5 million passengers [in 2019/2020].” – RDN Redevelopment Strategy
While I recognize that there are concerns over houseless people using these facilities, such concerns do not address the issue of houseless people as a whole. Some residents have even complained about the presence of public washrooms. To this point, I will say one thing. If your concern is that our houseless neighbours will be allowed to have the dignity to use a public washroom over a street corner then your priorities are in the wrong place. At the end of the day, preventing a bus exchange will not solve or prevent these already present issues.
Proposed network restructuring of all Nanaimo bus routes from a 2022 report. (Regional District of Nanaimo)
I love Nanaimo. I understand it has problems, but at the end of the day, I would like to see our city investing in itself to make our community a more liveable and productive place. This exchange is one of many ways that can be done. The opposition to this exchange claims to represent the majority opinion. However, do those articles speak for the thousands of our neighbours who ride these busses daily? In 2019/2020, B.C. Transit reported that “the system used 56 buses to provide 130,000 hours of service and carried 3.5 million passengers” in Nanaimo. Think of that number, 3.5 million. When reading about people speaking out against this exchange, we, as community members, should ask ourselves. Do these people speak for the people who took those 3.5 million trips?
– Strong Towns Nanaimo Community Member