General News · 24th August 2018
Following from Oliver’s previous post, I was inspired to add to this discussion. I keep hearing it is not possible for a community of our size to have subsidized public transportation to Cortes but many things were thought to not be possible before they came to be.
I have to ask... why not?
I was just thinking about a couple of places I have visited recently.
Honeymoon Bay has a population of 580 people, about half our size. They have BC Transit with buses running multiple times a day every day but Sunday. It costs $2.25 to get between Honeymoon Bay and the big city of Duncan.
Lund has a population of only 287 - far less than here. They also have BC Transit with a bus that runs twice a day, 3 days per week. It costs $2.25 to get from Lund to the urban metropoulos of Powell River.
Obviously, it is not only possible for a community of our size but I would say it is even a reasonable expectation to have subsidized public transportation to Cortes.
So why do we seem to think it is impossible? Do we not deserve similar services that even smaller communities than our own have?
I wasn’t sure how BC Transit is funded. Is it provincially funded? If this was the case then we pay the same provincial taxes as other communities, should we not get the same services? But then I learned it was funded by local governments. It is based on choices by local government on how to spend municipal funds. Are the property taxes that much higher in Honeymoon Bay and Lund because they have subsidized public transportation? I don’t know the answer to this but I think it is worth looking into.
Is this something that should be considered? I can’t imagine even having to ask that in a place like Cortes where we care so deeply about the environment. Perhaps, it may not even be an environmental decision for some but out of necessity, as they can’t or don’t drive. Of course anything we can do to reduce the number of vehicles on the road is not only good for the environment but would also greatly help decrease traffic congestion and ferry overload situations.
I am very thankful to the many wonderful people willing to give rides across Quadra. This doesn’t work for everyone all of the time though. I have heard others say there is the Quadra Taxi but is this really sufficient? I know it costs significantly more that $2.25 and the cost becomes prohibitive for many. Do we settle for a two-tier system? Those that can afford it and those that can’t? It should be remembered that it is often not a choice to go to the big island but often out of necessity. I understand that Quadra Taxi needs to run a profitable business but maybe they could be part of a subsidized transportation solution? It maybe could be more like the Lund model with selective times and days, to be a cheaper option.
I hate to think anything is impossible, especially in this community with so many amazing people and creative out-of-the-box thinkers. In this case, it definitely seems to be more of a choice. Is this something that would be good for Cortes and maybe the environment as a whole? With the municipal elections coming up this is a really good time to be asking if the various candidates would fight for this as it won’t happen if we all sit back and accept the status quo.
It makes me think of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Who would be up for the challenge?
Quadra Shuttle Focus
Comment by sonya friesen on 29th August 2018
Yes, yes, yes to focus on Quadra shuttle first ! Great timing for an opportunity to get something off the ground now with a shuttle purchased with gas tax funds and the operational costs shared with bc transit funds with a Quadra provider, Quadra taxi makes sense , if they have an interest ? If not than a non-profit and a list of volunteer drivers needed, or simply start with a shared van either leased by non-profit or co-op carshare ownership and pre- book blocked out time for shuttle vanpool use between ferries,,drivers are the commuters no need for volunteer or paid drivers. Start with an express small van shuttle to meet first 2 am ferries and two last evening, or just once a day ? Van used for other Quadra routes and leased/shared for other services like medical appointments, school outings, community events at others times of the day or night.
One day a Cortes similar bc transit/ SRD funded or non-profit volunteer driven Cortes shuttle complemented by small e-vehicles/ bikes oneway carsharing car2go style placed around the island ? Community halls and Harbour authority apply for gas tax funds to have simple hub parking charge stations ,,, and yes why not find a way to loan gas tax funds to young people for purchase of e-bikes instead of more studies ? Currently SRD gas tax funds sit in bank accounts whose bankers lend funds to the likes of Kinder Morgan and ford truck loans to keep the habit going..
Very tricky problem
Comment by max on 28th August 2018
There are so many aspects to consider here.
I think we arrived at a sensible hodge-podge of solutions in the Transportation Study - or as I like to call it: Silver Buckshot. (or maybe silver duckshot... as opposed to a silver bullet).
The solutions for us are a extremely tricky for several reasons:
-we have to create new arrangements (such as sharing the load with quadra, getting BC transit to explore creative partnerships, shared capital and maybe having a for-profit entrepreneurial element)
-we need person-to-person teamwork and organization to fill in the gaps of a system that will be intermittent due to ridership issues
-there are currently legislative barriers (such as Uber/Lyft restrictions)
-We currently have to organize/initiate all this complexity ourselves (which means it barely limps along because it requires focused and sustained full-time effort, at least in the beginning). nobody seems prepared to make this effort at this time... and no one has found funding to pay someone to take this on.
I believe that if we could fund a coordinator to implement the Study recommendations, or demand that SRD staff do it, that we would have a Custom Cortes Transportation system.
BTW - It's a bit simplistic to say 'user-pays'. We're a little more interconnected than that. We benefit from scaling up and sharing the load -- in some ways, at some times, for most people. And sometimes government (we), has (have) to be the spark that brings that together.
Comment by Jack Wills on 25th August 2018
OK, Reality check. All this stuff is really groovy, but it costs money.
Delores provided a link to GERTIE which works OK for a population 4 times the size of ours with twice the median income, and a large portion of work commuters to use the buses. The Gabriola buses are also used ON Gabriola, not on a different island as would be the case here.
This information below is derived from the Cortes Island Transportation Study of 2017.
What do we have these studies for if nobody pays any attention to them?
“ a minimum population density of 20 residents per hectare is required to support a
community shuttle2. If just the southern half of Cortes Island (6,500 hectares) is considered this method would equate to a required population base of approximately 13,000 residents, which is well over current Cortes Island population levels of approximately 1,000 residents. This suggests that an on-Island only shuttle would have
difficulty reaching required ridership levels necessary to justify service.” (There's an understatement!)
“Average operating cost for BC Transit Regional Transit Systems was $106 per service hour in 2014. If a bus service was provided for 8 hours per day, one day a week for 52 weeks the annual costs would equate to approximately $44,000”
That cost was in 2014, I would imagine it to be somewhat higher now (isn't everything?) That cost is also for operating only 1 day a week To provide ferry shuttle service, the bus would have to operate 10 hours a day,7 days a week. That adds up to about $385,000, and we are talking only operating costs, that's AFTER buying the bus(es)
Also, a reminder, a shuttle across Quadra would be by definition ON Quadra. How about getting our Regional Director to convince Quadra residents to pay for it, and we'll just pay the fare when we get on the bus?
BC Transit or Uber
Comment by Maureen on 25th August 2018
According to the Cortes Island Transportation Demand study done last year, BC Transit cost $106 per service hour in 2014/15. For an 8 hour per day, one day per week for 52 weeks the annual cost would be about $44,000. Besides being prohibitively expensive, the survey done for this study. and open houses on Cortes found considerable concern that a subsidized bus or shuttle service would unfairly compete with the private sector.
Meanwhile, the NDP has delayed legislation to introduce ridesharing to the province. If you think government is the solution to this problem, perhaps you should send an email to our current Minister of Transportation, Claire Trevena (250-387-1978 or Minister.Transportation,,,gov.bc.ca).
Comment by Delores Broten on 25th August 2018
And then there's "Gertie" -- Gabriola's solution to the problem (Gabriola is much larger in population than Cortes)
Why not, Jack?
Comment by Ron Kroeker on 25th August 2018
Aw, come on Jack. Be a sport! Maybe if we both forego Popsicles for the next 50 years, the SRD could also buy a couple of planes and start a fully integrated transportation company. Maybe we could even buy a train and restart the Courtenay to Victoria train service.
After all, we’re already in the real estate game with our own office tower and about to get into the Internet Service Provider business. THINK BIG!
How many more SRD staff could it possibly take to study, plan, design and operate SRD Transportation Inc?? I know the train service idea is outside of the SRD geography, but so is 95% of the Internet Service Provider area.
Comment by Stephen Reid on 24th August 2018
Its so easy to sit back and rattle off the reasons why somebody can't do something. But lets not forget that anything is possible. Although I am not actively striving to make this happen, I support those who want this and you can get it!
Where are the entrepreneurs?
Comment by Patricia L on 24th August 2018
I for one was very dependent on the Cortes Connection. Many islanders miss it. It is a one man show and hard work for sure but is there no one who would like to purchase an established and necessary business?
As far as I know, Honeymoon Bay and Lund are not 2 ferries from the mainland. Maybe that is why it works. Or, perhaps they are are considered part of the Ministry of HIghways? Relying on politics to remedy a situation doesn't usually work out. We need some of 0ur creative minds to create a business to fill this niche. That is what could work. Even the Cortes Connection wouldn't have survived with only passengers. The freight aspect was most important.
A reply to subsidized transport
Comment by Jack Wills on 24th August 2018
"Do we settle for a two-tier system? Those that can afford it and those that can’t?
Sandy: Yes, it is a two tier system.......I am surprised you have not learned that as a kid. If you had money for a Popsicle, you could get one. No money, no Popsicle. That goes in any economic or political system going, save maybe a very small tribal group, even then, things are divided up by social status. Welcome to the human race......same for squirrels too BTW.
"It is based on choices by local government on how to spend municipal funds."
We as a regional district has apparently chosen to put most of our money into parks. Something close to 50% of Cortes property taxes go to parks and cultural activities. Schools, libraries, fire protection make up most of the rest.
"Are the property taxes that much higher in Honeymoon Bay and Lund because they have subsidized public transportation? "
I don't know the answer to that, either, but we already have the 2nd highest tax rates in this regional district, and we appear to get little in return. Incidentally, we do have one of the lowest average incomes . Wonder why there is little affordable housing? That's one of the reasons.
Suppose we did have cheap subsidized transportation across Quadra Island that was paid by our property taxes. Could Quadra residents ride on our tax money? How about tourists?
There are already 5 (FIVE!!!) new proposed property or parcel taxes in the works. How much more do you think we can afford to pay?
BTW, I as well as anyone would like to have a reliable low cost way to cross Quadra from one ferry to the next, but I won't ask you to pay for it.
Comment by Romina on 24th August 2018
You are right. I'm glad everyone has such great luck with hitchhiking but it is not reliable transportation. I do not expect seniors to make it to scheduled medical appointments or getting supplies in town via hitchhiking there and back. I really don't expect anyone to. I've personally been passed over and also times when no car passed for lengthy bouts of time (once ferry off loads and no one takes you you're stuck), which is not fun when it's getting dark. So Cortes is only for the young, but not too young as must have drivers license, and who have a car? So this talk about supporting a diverse population is really just talk? We already saw summer event complaints and probably no-shows because lack of shuttles to and from. We have to contend with drinking and driving as is and this does not help. As for tourists, already having folks debating cancelling holidays as no shuttle to get to and from ferry, and as a family with luggage not wanting to rely on hitch-hiking, which once again is not reliable. No transportation options other than car ownership on this island is not good for our bottom-line in any regard.
Comment by Ian Ross on 24th August 2018
I agree with Sandy’s many points. She/He’s quite right, it seems to me. And so is Dr. Suess. Thanks, Sandy, for your thoughts.