Improved infrastructure and more environmentally sustainable buses are being welcomed by the University of Victoria. On Tuesday, the federal and provincial governments announced funding to provide BC Transit with six natural-gas buses that will replace diesel buses currently in the system. As well, UVic is getting an enhanced transit exchange on campus that includes better paths and bike storage to encourage students to cycle to school.
“This project will help us reach our goal of having 70% of all trips to and from campus facilitated by public transit or active transportation," UVic's president and vice-chancellor Kevin Hall says. "These transit improvements complement our Campus Cycling Plan and give our campus community and neighbours greener and healthier commuting choices from their doorstep to school, work and play.”
The new buses will be fueled by compressed or renewable natural gas, and replace buses at the end of their service life.
The federal contribution will be $4.9 million while the province will provide $4.5 million. The Victoria Regional Transit Commission and UVic will chip in $1.9 million.
The City of Victoria is extending its network of bike lanes, adding 4.8 kilometres with a recently approved plan. The new lanes will serve riders of all ages and abilities and connect Fernwood, Oaklands and the Jubilee area with downtown.
Safe cycling lanes encourage active commuting, contribute to safe cities and help employers' efforts to find and keep workers. To have your say in the ongoing discussion about the city's cycling network, visit engage.victoria.ca.
The future of housing in the District of Saanich is up for discussion as council is set to receive a report on March 22 with 74 recommendations. Saanich convened a Housing Strategy task force, which met 13 times between September and February.
The report ranks the priority of recommendations in specific areas of focus:
Residents will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the report. The Chamber continues to advocate for housing solutions that make life more affordable for the regional workforce needed for Greater Victoria's economy to thrive.
After many months of calling on governments to help transportation businesses that have been devastated by the pandemic, the province finally delivered good news yesterday.
Funding of up to $10.7 million is available for inter-city bus operators, as well as up to $16.5 million for regional airports to support operations for one year starting April 1.
“During the pandemic, inter-city bus operators that connect rural and remote communities and regional airports that provide medical safety services experienced a significant drop in ridership,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure in a news release. “This relief funding will help these vital services stay open and be ready for a strong recovery when travel restrictions are relieved by the COVID-19 vaccination effort in BC”
Minister Fleming, who spoke to Chamber members on March 2 as part of our Business Restart Series with provincial ministers, said relief would be announced soon to ensure valuable transportation services get through the pandemic.
“Today is filled with a sense of overwhelming gratitude and relief for the inter-city ground transportation sector across the province, but more importantly for the members of our rural, remote and Indigenous communities that rely on these services,” John Wilson, president and CEO, Wilson’s Group of Companies said. “With the announcement of this grant, I am pleased to say we will be looking at restarting services in the coming weeks to ensure Vancouver Island once again has the connectivity that so many members of our communities need.”
New fare choices for BC Ferries will provide better "value, flexibility and certainty" for passengers travelling to or from the Island.
The Prepaid and Saver fares, announced today, can be purchased in advance of sailing the major routes between the Island and mainland.
BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins, who has previously spoken at Chamber events about moving to a prepaid model, said once travel restrictions are lifted the new fares will "help spread traffic across the day, reducing sailing waits at popular times.”
Saver fares will range from $49 to $73.70, including reservation, and are available year-round for travellers able to choose less busy sailing times.
The prepaid fare enables customers to pay for reservations and travel in advance, making boarding more convenient.
News that Greater Victoria is in line for 210 new licensed child-care spaces will be welcomed by parents. Many working families are often underemployed because parents are unable to work due to the lack of accessible, affordable care for their kids.
The provincial government announced the spaces yesterday as part of its Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, which has created 1,630 spaces in Greater Victoria since 2018.
When the time is right to welcome visitors back to our region, a new experience will be ready to share the story of the Lək̓ʷəŋən people's land and history. The Songhees Nation received $637,900 from the province's Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program to help build a 25-foot aluminum landing craft that can fit 12 passengers.
The vessel will take people on tours of culturally significant sites where the Lək̓ʷəŋən fished and gathered other food sources such as shellfish and berries. The marine trail runs from Colwood down past Victoria and up to Cadboro Bay. Tours are expected to begin next year.
Making it easier to get around Greater Victoria, and addressing climate change were among the many topics addressed yesterday by BC's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming.
The Minister spoke to Chamber members as part of our ongoing Business Restart Series, which continues March 30 with Agricultural Minister Lana Popham (details below).
Fleming spoke about continuing efforts to make getting to work convenient for commuters who live in more affordable areas of the region. For example, he said the McKenzie Interchange, which is "substantially complete," has cut commute times to the West Shore in half. As well, an additional widening of the highway will make the route ready for Light Rapid Transit. Another concept that is still being looked at is a ferry from Colwood to Victoria.
The Minister also addressed The Chamber's calls for better transportation governance in the region. Fleming said the solution requires something other than the system of weighted votes used by the Capital Regional District. Greater Victoria needs a body that looks at the region as whole, and not as a collection of 13 municipalities.
The Minister also responded to a Chamber member question by encouraging businesses to lend their voice to a proposed "flyover" overpass from the Pat Bay Highway northbound to Keating Cross Road westbound, eliminating the left turn across highway traffic onto Keating Cross Road.
If you missed yesterday's event but would like to hear more about what the Minister had to say, the video is available for purchase.
Last week, the provincial government announced a new option for its workers who live on the West Shore. The Westhills ShareSpace office in Langford offers about 10,000-square-feet of offices that allow for co-working areas and private spaces.
"Having this hub in Langford will allow residents to work close to home, get out of traffic, and spend more time with their families, creating a better work/life balance,” Langford Mayor Stew Young said in the news release issued by the province.
About 2,000 BC government workers, or 20% of its Greater Victoria workforce, live in West Shore communities. The Chamber supports the move as a transportation solution that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, moving government workers out of downtown needs to be done in consultation with businesses.
On CBC's On The Island, Chamber CEO Bruce Williams said it's vital we grow the economy without pitting communities in the region against each other.
"The workers downtown are a huge part of that downtown economy," Williams said.
Ferry service between Greater Victoria and destinations in Washington State are hoping for a return to service as soon as it's safe to travel. The Canadian government has extended the closure of the US border until March 21.
Black Ball Ferry Lines, which operates the Coho ferry, and Clipper Navigation suspended operations when the border was closed almost a year ago. Both companies say they will be ready to resume sailing as soon as they're permitted to do so.
“I think there’s lot of pent up demand, but we really don’t know the circumstances of what an opening will be," Black Ball's president Ryan Burles told the Times Colonist. “We know it has to be safe to travel, and not just kind of safe. I know that about 90% of B.C. people don’t want the border to be open until it’s safe.”