GERTIE transports 100,000th rider

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, January 29 2020

Stephen, Felix, and Cedar Levesque were celebrated this past Saturday as the 100,000th passengers on the GERTIE Community Bus system. Photo courtesy Scott Colbourne

The 100,000th passengers - Stephen Levesque and his sons Felix and Cedar - stepped aboard the GERTIE bus on Wednesday morning, January 22, 2020.

On January 24, supporters of GERTIE (Gabriola’s Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express) gathered to celebrate the historic milestone and present the Levesques with their prizes, which included a year-long pass to ride GERTIE.

Steve Earle, GERTIE Director, spoke on what 100,000 riders means.

“It means tens of thousands of commuters carried to work, school and appointments on time,

“It means tens of thousands of car trips not taken,

“It means many vehicles taken off the road, or not purchased,

“It means thousands of rides for people who don’t have other ways to get around, and many tens of thousands of dollars spent at Gabriola businesses that would not have been spent otherwise.”

Earle also recognized the hard work of the past and present members of the board, the past and present coordinators - Steve Jackson, Steve Polzin and of course Trevor Gear were in attendence -  and all of drivers going right back to 2013 - as well as  everyone who has supported GERTIE, including past-RDN Director Howard Houle who was instrumental in getting GERTIE funded.

Also at the ceremony was Vanessa Craig, Regional District of Nanaimo Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, and DeCourcy Islands). Craig said, “Congratulations to Stephen Levesque and family, and also the GERTIE Board, drivers, and crew for this milestone. The success of GERTIE is due to the vision and hard work of the GERTIE Board, and the support from the residents of our islands. It’s notable that GERTIE is being seen as a model of a community bus service by other small/rural communities. I look forward to continuing to work with the Board as they develop their plans to enhance service to our communities.”

Paul Manly, Green Party MP for Gabriola, sent a statement which Earle read at the celebration saying, “GERTIE is an inspiring example of a community joining together to create an initiative that improves the lives of residents, and benefits the environment at the same time. GERTIE helps Gabriola’s seniors, children, and youth, as well as families. It also makes it easier for visitors who come to the island without bringing a vehicle. GERTIE makes Gabriola a liveable option for people who don’t drive or own a car. I’ve had the pleasure of riding GERTIE a number of times including a special trip with Elizabeth May in 2015...imagine how many GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions have been eliminated by having GERTIE on Gabriola.”

Key GERTIE dates: 

2008 - 40 people donate their BC Government Climate Action Dividend cheques, and a bank account is opened with a total of $7,000. A public transit task force conducts a mail-out survey with 799 residents responding, with support indicated for a public bus service.

2010 - BC Transit feasibility study shows low to medium potential of a transit service.

2012/2013 - Shuttle bus proposal submitted to RDN. By 2013, RDN provides monies through Community Works funds and further monies are received from BC Hydro. Two buses are purchased and the bus service named GERTIE.

June 2013 - Service officially begins.

February 2015 - Sadie Gambrill is GERTIE’s 20,000 rider.

February 13, 2016. - 66.9% of ratepayers approved an increase in property tax to support GERTIE. 

2017 - Scotty Macdonald was the 50,000 rider of GERTIE

2019 - GERTIE has it’s first year transporting over 20,000 riders in a single year.