The long-anticipated transit connection between the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo is expected to begin in March.
The Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Regional District of Nanaimo and BC Transit are in the process of approving a memorandum of understanding that would see the new Nanaimo-Cowichan Express [NCX] route go into service on March 28 for a five-year period.
The new bus route between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley has been a priority in the CVRD’s transit plans for years, and the CVRD, RDN and BC Transit began a feasibility study for the service in 2012.
A CVRD staff report said the NCX, which will be operated by the RDN in partnership with the CVRD and BC Transit, is proposed to have a number of stops between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Duncan in a plan that must still be finalized and approved by the RDN and CVRD.
Stops would be in downtown Nanaimo, at South Parkway Plaza, Nanaimo Airport, Ladysmith, Cowichan Commons, Beverly Street at Canada Avenue, downtown Duncan and Village Green Mall.
Rachelle Rondeau, a transit analyst with the CVRD, said that to avoid competition with the local transit service in the Cowichan Valley, which is run by a private operating company, stops along the south-bound trips in the Valley will be drop-off only, and stops along the north-bound trip will be pick-up only.
“There will be seven round trips Monday to Friday, and six on Saturday,” she said.
“While the scheduling of trip times has yet to be confirmed, it is expected that the schedule of the NCX will be integrated with transit routes in the RDN, particularly to Vancouver Island University. A connection between the NCX and the Cowichan Valley Commuter service for a morning trip to Victoria, and a corresponding return trip, is also proposed.”
The fare for the NCX is proposed to be $7.50 one way, while a book of 10 tickets is proposed to be $67.60.
The estimated total annual cost for the service will be approximately $1,040,000, and the RDN and the CVRD will be responsible to cover approximately 50 per cent.
“Through previous public engagement processes, and for many years, there has been considerable interest in a transit route between Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley,” Rondeau said.
“BC Transit has developed a service implementation and marketing plan, and will lead the communications and marketing for the service with support from both the CVRD and RDN.”