There are so many reasons to vote YES on February 13 – let me count the whys:

Tuesday, January 26 2016

1) If you commute to Nanaimo regularly, you save a lot of money, time and planning for ferry lineups and parking. If someone in your family picks you up as a foot passenger, you save their time, gas costs and parking problems if you take GERTIE to and from the ferry.

You can use your GERTIE fares as a provincial tax deduction too, if you tally your commuter trips, because public transit is tax-deductible at income tax time (so are your ferry fares if you commute to work).

Regular commuter Sharon, who has taken GERTIE to work since June 2013, was GERTIE’s first official paying passenger (during the “soft” launch), and she likes being able to wake up while drinking her tea on the early morning bus ride to the ferry. Sharon is pleased to save vehicle gas and maintenance money, and leave her car at home in case it’s needed on the island while she’s at work.

2) Islanders who don’t own their own vehicles appreciate GERTIE for the abilities and options it gives them in travelling to work, and to local businesses and events. As one regular GERTIE rider says, “It’s a real pleasure to meet people in our neighbourhood using GERTIE to get to places and events we didn’t go to before we started taking the bus.”

3) Families who previously owned two vehicles for different work and school schedules can now get by with one vehicle and GERTIE. If you live at the south end of the island, this can save even more money in gas and parking costs. One such family member says, “I love that GERTIE stops anywhere I need to be picked up between our place and the ferry, and I’ve occasionally been able to take my dog along, too.” Many Gabriola families go in different directions at the same time and this is where GERTIE can really come in handy.

4) Students whose schedules don’t fit well with the school bus now have the option of taking GERTIE – an especially helpful choice for high school students whose after-school activities necessitate a later afternoon ferry back to Gabriola. With the Gabriola Lions helping to subsidize youth tickets at $10 for a book of 10, it’s affordable for students and families, too.

5) Home-schoolers also enjoy GERTIE for regular play dates and home school events and activities – two young home-schoolers who are regular passengers enjoy playing games and chatting while the bus transports them safely to their destinations.

6) Summertime pub-goers can take an evening bus from the Surf Lodge to Silva Bay, with stops at all pubs and restaurants along the way, and get home safely – it’s even more fun when you go with a gang of friends.

7) Visitors and tourists enjoy discovering the island on GERTIE, and boaters can get from Silva Bay to the Village for shopping, errands and recreation. As one south-ender points out, “There is less traffic at the south end, so hitchhiking is difficult – I can count on GERTIE to get me to the Village and the ferry.” GERTIE-rider Diana has been visiting Gabriola from Toronto since the 1970s; she stays at Silva Bay Inn and is thrilled about riding GERTIE to “bop around the island and do my shopping.”

8) Hikers and walkers use GERTIE to go uphill (then walk down) or travel in one direction by bus and hike back for exercise and exploration. A wonderful day trip can be organized by using GERTIE to get to one end of the island and then Gabriola’s excellent (thanks to GaLTT) trail system for a return journey.

9) People with disabilities can use the GERTIE-Lift bus to get around with their wheelchair, scooter, walker or other mobility aid.

10) Islanders and visitors going to a community event can have fun travelling together on GERTIE, and save gas and parking hassles too.

11) Anyone who cares about our environment and particularly about global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions should know that, to date, GERTIE has prevented about 48 tonnes of GHG emissions. Careful studies and surveys have enabled us to determine quite accurately how helpful GERTIE is for basic travel needs, and how our community bus has contributed to positive climate action.

Many encouraging comments have come our way in the past few weeks, and they could be summarized neatly by saying that GERTIE riders and supporters (many people do support GERTIE but are not regular passengers) feel that GERTIE offers enough environmental, economical and social benefits to warrant its continuation beyond the end of the three-year pilot project which ends on May 31. 

Voting day for the GERTIE referendum is Saturday, February 13 – polls are open at the Gabriola Elementary School from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Advance polls on February 3 and February 10 are at the same location and times.

Don’t forget to take advantage of GERTIE’s winter loonie special: take the bus to/from the ferry to the Village for a loonie – it’s a great way to get up that busy ferry hill and introduce yourself to GERTIE.

We are almost at the point of celebrating our 33, 333rd GERTIE passenger, and when this occurs the lucky rider will receive two free passes for February and March. We hope to have a photo and announcement in the next Sounder – our stats indicate that Saturday January 23 is the likely date.

Remember to check the GERTIE website at www.gertie.ca for last-minute news and schedule updates; meanwhile, updated winter rider’s guides have been distributed to our usual outlets around the island and at the ferry terminals.

~ Susan Yates, GERTIE Biographer

P.S. Despite GERTIE-Noir’s slow slide into the ditch two weeks ago, we want to assure everyone that the buses are inspected regularly and thoroughly by the same provincial agency that inspects other transit vehicles.