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Bus exchange takes step toward realization with compromise on parking

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
July 7th, 2024

A compromise has been struck on the impasse which is the downtown bus exchange on Victoria Street, BC Transit announced.

David Lenton, Victoria Street Transit Exchange project manager, said the project has passed into the 90 per cent detailed design stage — complete with changes — as it prepares for design completion in one week.

Concerns were raised by residents and businesses in the downtown about the impacts of the initial loss of on-street parking and the current loading zone in the original plan, and the resultant effect on local businesses.

The new design made some changes Lenton believed were beneficial to the local area and the end product, and recently received stage gate approval from BC Transit. The redesign would still be one block long but the mid-block crosswalk would be removed as it was not too functional in the design.

“By removing that we were able to add additional on-street public parking stalls on the north side,” he told City council on July 2 during a video conference. “And on the south side the loading zone would be retained, enlarged and re-positioned.”

Coun. Jesse Woodward wondered if the flexibility in the exchange design would be retained.

“With these changes, is expansion still possible if we want to put more buses in there?” he asked.

“There are possibilities for expansion on both sides of the road, but, unfortunately, it would impact the loading zone or the on-street parking,” Lenton explained. “That would be something to address at the time if future expansion is on the horizon.”

The current design provides five bus bays — constructed out of concrete for added durability — and adding another bus bay would reduce the loading zone and on-street parking.

 

 

In mid-July the design will be completed and — with approval by the city — the project sign will be installed on the street, but more than two months behind the timeline BC Transit initially proposed. At the same time the tender for the project will be posted to BC Bid, as well as an advisory that construction is coming within the next month.

By mid-August it is expected that the contract will be awarded, Lenton explained, with construction slated to start in late August, with the contractor to engage local businesses. September would be the 50 per cent construction milestone, while late October would see a substantial completion, with in-service expected and project completion.

A potential hurdle could come in the form of the provincial election this fall, Lenton warned restricting the transit communication abilities.

“The communications plan is subject to change due to the Provincial government’s writ period where communications are for operational advisories only,” he said.

Details for the project include, on the north side, a completely redone curb, gutter and sidewalk from one end to the other (Kootenay to Stanley street). Transit shelters will be installed, complete with in-ceiling lighting. Three bus bays will be built on the north side of the street with two on the south side, which will also see all new curb, gutter and sidewalk installed throughout.

There will be new street lighting throughout the exchange as well, with a public restroom stationed near the Nelson Public Library.

“It will be perfectly accessible for all persons as well,” said Lenton.

There will also be bike racks included on the street, with four on-street parking stalls for vehicles on the north side.

Woodward wondered if there would be electronic displays of the bus times and routes located in the exchange.

“Or would it still just be a paper copy on a post?” he asked.

“For the time being each of the bus shelters would retain map cases so the schedule and the route maps would be retained therein,” Lenton replied. “I’m not sure if the NextRide system, or the digital systems we use, would be available in Nelson yet.”

 

Seed of debate

In several stakeholder workshops last year — conducted by Watt Consulting Group at the behest of the City and BC Transit — several themes for the 300 block of Vernon Street emerged, with the loss of parking to create the bus stops at the top of the list.

Despite some work on reconfiguring parking prior to the workshops, business owners on the street and in adjacent areas had reservations in losing parking to make way for spaces to park transit buses.

There was appreciation that some changes had been made to address a loss of parking from the initial plan presentation, said Tania Wegwitz of Watt Consulting at the time. Work had been done to explore different options in terms of what parking could be located on the 200 block of Victoria through reconfiguration, as well as other streets such as Kootenay, and try to maximize options there, she added.

In the revised plan all parking on the southeast corner of Kootenay Street at Victoria Street was restored and made standard size.

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