As they celebrate another successful Summer Shuttle season, Tofitian officials are investigating the feasibility of West Coast wide transit.
Tofino’s 2015 seasonal summer shuttle service wrapped up in September.
The program cost $44,100 this year with $20,700 coming from Resort Municipality Initiative dollars and the remainder from the Federal Gas Tax Fund.
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly that Tofino’s council sees the shuttle as an important service.
“The shuttle provides a convenient way for visitors and locals to get between downtown, beaches, and the various businesses accessible along the highway,” she said.
“We think it’s an important service to help reduce traffic and parking congestion downtown and at the beach parking lots and to assist those visitors who’ve arrive by bus or plane and want a car-free stay in Tofino. There are also an increasing number of people who arrive by car but keen to help curb their own greenhouse gas emissions and ride a bike or take the shuttle while they are in Tofino.”
When the shuttle program was first launched in 2007, patrons were charged $2 to ride but this charge was nixed last year and Osborne said the free rides will continue next season.
“Eliminating the $2 fare resulted in a three-fold increase in ridership, and anecdotally I’ve heard from several locals – especially parents with small children – that making the shuttle free inspired them to use it to get around,” she said.
She added the shuttle does not just cater to tourists.
“About 30% of the riders are local residents, who use the shuttle to get to work and to get out to the beaches. It’s a convenient way for parents with strollers and bags of beach gear to get to the beach,” she said.
She said consideration has been given to extending the program both in the length it is offered and the length of its route.
“The free Tofino shuttle is a visitor-oriented service that currently runs the length of the developed portion of the municipality, so lengthening the shuttle route is really a conversation about establishing transit to at least Esowista but even as far as Ucluelet,” she said.
“The idea of establishing some kind of transit year round is being discussed – informally right now – within Tofino and the Regional District. Expanding the free Tofino shuttle into the shoulder season, say June and September, should be considered…We will need to look at visitation numbers, cost, and funding sources.”
She noted connecting Tofino to its West Coast neighbours through a public transit system is high on Tofino’s list of strategic priorities .
“There has been discussion about establishing a transit service between Tofino and Ucluelet – primarily as a way to help local residents better access health and social services as well as work opportunities. For example, affordable transportation – along with lack of child care spaces and affordable housing – has been identified as a key barrier to employment on the West Coast,” she said.
“With an increasing number of people living in Esowista, Ty-histanis, or Ucluelet and working in Tofino, Council recognizes that public transit of some kind between Tofino and Ucluelet would be a great benefit.”
She said such a program’s potential demand, scheduling, costs and funding sources would need to be investigated.
“There’s a lot of work to do but with the Alberni-Clayoquot Health Network’s upcoming focus on affordable transportation networks in the ACRD, I’ve brought forward the idea that we have to investigate the specific opportunities between Tofino and Ucluelet,” she said.