Council report: Tofino summer shuttle a success

Tofino’s municipal council beamed over Tofino’s seasonal transit service performance numbers last week.

The service was first launched in 2007, in part, as a way of decreasing Tofino’s parking pressure downtown and at local beaches by increasing transportation opportunities from June-September. Riders had traditionally been charged $2 to take the shuttle but a move to make the service free this summer paid dividends in the district’s eyes as ridership increased ten-fold, according to a report submitted by Tofino’s RMI services manager April Froment.

Froment’s report suggested ridership increased 160 per cent from last year, going from 4,563 riders in 2013 to 11,859 this year and the average number of riders per day soared from 69 to 179.

“By all accounts the 2014 transit service was an unqualified success,” Froment wrote.

“With demand for parking in the downtown core and at local beaches continuing to increase during the July and August peak season, and strong 2014 ridership indicating an appetite for the free transit service among both visitors and residents, staff support continuing to operate the service under the current delivery model.”

Froment’s report stated staff would be recommending the service remain free in 2015.

The program’s operating cost for 2014 was $39,416 and was paid for through a combination of Resort Municipalities Initiative (RMI) and the Federal Gas Tax dollars.

Froment noted this combination means it does not directly impact local taxpayers.

Coun. Cathy Thicke commended district staff, particularly CAO Bob MacPherson and Froment, for suggesting the service be free this season.

“You were the ones that led us to understand that it was a good move to consider doing this for free; we had that discussion and I’m really glad we had it,” she said.

“Thank you for bringing that and the results are here.”

Coun. Dorothy Baert was stoked to see some tourists who had driven to Tofino opted to leave their cars at their resorts and take the shuttle.

Of the riders who responded to a district led survey, 18 per cent of the tourists who rode the shuttle said they had driven to Tofino.

Baert said the 18 per cent figure gave the district a good baseline to improve upon.

“To gather the level of detail that you have is going to be really useful and I think it’s promising if we want to set some green sustainability goals,” she said.

Locals accounted for about 30 per cent of the shuttle’s ridership this year, up from just 3 per cent in 2013 and Mayor Josie Osborne was thrilled to see locals get on board. “I was very heartened by the fact the local ridership went way up and I certainly heard a lot of very positive comments from people,” she said.

Coun. Duncan McMaster said, “it’s great ridership went up,” and suggested the district consider expanding the program to neighboring communities including Ty-Histanis and Esowista.

“If we can get that bus going out so people can catch the bus into town I think that would be a great help,” he said.

“In the long term, I’d like to collaborate with Ucluelet so we could have a bus going backwards and forwards but let’s do it one step at a time.”

District CAO Bob MacPherson said enhancing the service could be hashed out during 2015’s budget discussions.

“One of the things the next council may want to look at is something more akin to a transit service,” he said.

“I appreciate the comments about getting out to Esowista and Ty-Histanis but doing that for two months out of the year probably falls a little bit short of what those communities might need.”

Mayor Josie Osborne said she “couldn’t agree more.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca