One of the many things that makes living in Nanaimo a pleasure is the ease of getting around the community, thanks in no small part to the services of the Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System. While in some major Canadian cities bus service is a municipal function, across British Columbia the job of getting people to their destinations falls to BC Transit, a provincial crown corporation that was created to provide public transportation services outside of the Lower Mainland region.
The Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System has the staff and the resources to provide both conventional bus services and special needs paratransit services within the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN). Headquartered at 6300 Hammond Bay Road in North Nanaimo, the Transit Systems is operated by the RDN’s Regional Transportation Services Department and is jointly funded by the RDN and BC Transit.
Working seven days per week (with reduced levels of service on weekends and statutory holidays) the Service currently operates 17 scheduled bus routes throughout the region. Founded as a transportation service in 1969 the Regional Transit System currently has a fleet of more than 50 buses and is a leader in the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to fuel its energy-efficient rolling stock.
The Regional District of Nanaimo Transit System not only operates a fleet of vehicles that services the needs of the entire Regional District of Nanaimo, it also hosts a state of the art maintenance and service depot to help keep its units rolling and in tip top shape.
BC Transit itself is the evolution of the province’s first organized transit service, the British Columbia Electric Railway, which was initially founded in 1897. By 1961 this service became a division of BC Hydro, which operated it until 1979 when it was restructured by the provincial government into the Urban Transit Authority which in turn was rebranded BC Transit in 1983.
Public transportation in British Columbia as we know it today truly is the end result of an evolutionary process. The original BC Electric Railway was incorporated to operate the facilities of the Consolidated Railway Company (CRC) which had been created in 1896. The CRC itself was a consortium of 10 individual companies that had been involved in electric-based transportation services in one form or another – from light rail to street cars and tramways in Vancouver, New Westminster and in Victoria.
Over the years the use of streetcars and interurban trams gave way to more conventional buses – gas-powered and in the case of Vancouver, electric trolley buses. This focus on electrical vehicles encouraged the provincial government to hand over operation of the province’s public transportation system to BC Hydro in 1962. The development of BC Transit in 1983 helped to unify the overall planning and delivery of public transportation for all of the different municipal transit systems in British Columbia, including the system currently enjoyed by Nanaimo area residents.