GERTIE crew adds third bus to Gabriola transit fleet

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Monday, October 28 2013

The Gabriola GERTIE bus system has added a second black Sprinter to the fleet of buses available for providing public transport to islanders.

Fay Weller, one of the GERTIE crew, confirmed on Friday that the second Sprinter was on-island and getting prepared to go into service, although for the next little while islanders will still see “Thomas” the school bus running the regular routes.

GERTIE organizers will be presenting to the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) Board in December to ask that Gabriola-marked Community Works funds be used to offset the purchase of the second Sprinter bus.

Total cost being asked of the RDN is $17,500, which will include the purchase price of the Sprinter as well as any improvements required to make it certifiable for public transit purposes.

Fay said an additional request is being put together to ask for funds to build bus shelters as well as improve the signage on the sides of the two black Sprinters.

The wrap, designed by Gabriola artist Dianna Bonder, will still be put on Thomas, who will remain as part of the regular GERTIE fleet, taking on those routes which are too busy for the smaller Sprinters to handle, as well as any special event runs which have proven to be excellent fundraisers for GERTIE.

Fay had a special thanks to those anonymous donors who had made it possible to purchase the second sprinter so that it could be brought on-island and put in service while organizers talk to the RDN.

The more efficient second Sprinter will help to defray fuel and maintenance costs (Thomas does tend to need more TLC than the Sprinters).

Fay said it will also help, “big time with volunteer drivers.

“Thomas requires someone with an air brake ticket as well as Class 4. The Sprinters are just Class 4 unrestricted.

“We were stressed about having enough drivers licensed to drive Thomas.”

It also means that at any given time, when any two of the buses are on routes, there is a third bus ready as a backup.

The other aspect said Fay, is that in order to train and license drivers, “we need to take a Sprinter to Nanaimo. So having the third bus, and being able to still offer regular service, will be useful then as well.”

She said when the GERTIE crew met with RDN Future Transit Plans staff in the Village parking lot last week, they were told that the RDN sees 1.8 riders per hour as decent.

Right now, said Fay, GERTIE is averaging “4.8 riders per hour.”