Downtown Transit Exchange

When it comes to transportation, Nanaimo continues to be a city of options, creating road systems and infrastructure that support as many modes of travel as possible. From walking and cycling to driving and busing, it’s important that Nanaimo be as multi-modal as possible.

As Nanaimo grows, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) and BC Transit continue to improve and expand the local bus system. The Downtown Transit Exchange Project is designed to be an exchange with fast connections. It will create an opportunity to greatly improve the bus routes that connect downtown to the rest of the city and beyond, ultimately offering more options with less wait times.

Nanaimo’s population continues to grow, and each year more of Nanaimo’s residents, visitors and interurban commuters depend on local transit. The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) now has a population of 170,367, while Nanaimo’s population is now more than 100,000 (2021 Census).

The Downtown Transit Exchange project will be an important part of many downtown improvements to come. For more than 15 years, residents of Nanaimo have shared their strong desire for an appealing gateway around Terminal Avenue, from Esplanade to Commercial Street. Through the ReImagine Nanaimo public engagement process that led to a new Official Community Plan (City Plan – Nanaimo ReImagined), residents have shown that it’s a priority to have “a vibrant downtown that is safe for everyone.”

The Downtown Transit Exchange Project is truly a partnership. The RDN, BC Transit and City of Nanaimo have designed this transit exchange to make full use of the location while creating the best downtown bus transportation options possible. The dedication of this site as the new Downtown Transit Exchange now opens other potential sites for future development, including potential waterfront parks, public amenities and commercial opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Artistic concept of Transit Exchange from Esplanade

Artistic Rendering of Downtown Transit Exchange from Esplanade

Artistic rendering of Northbound Terminal Rapid Bus Stop

Artistic Rendering of Northbound Terminal Rapid Bus Stop

Cavan Street Operator Respite

Artistic Rendering of Cavan Street Operator Respite Facility


  • Progress

    ICIP Funding has been announced!

    On Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, the Honourable Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, and his Worship Leonard Krog, Mayor of the City of Nanaimo announced a joint investment of more than $15 million to support public transit in Nanaimo, British Columbia. The Government of Canada is investing $6,018,033 in this project, while the Government of British Columbia is investing $6,018,033 and the Regional District of Nanaimo is contributing $3,009,016. The City of Nanaimo is contributing the land.

    Link to News Release

    Downtown Transit Exchange

    The Downtown Nanaimo Transit Exchange, located on the 500 Block of Terminal Avenue will include:

    • A northbound rapid bus stop in front of the Italian fountain servicing the proposed #1 Terminal Rapid Bus Route
    • Two southbound "drop-off only" stops fronting the new development at 6 Commercial Street and the main exchange
    • The southbound #1 Terminal Rapid Bus Route will have a dedicated spot within the exchange
    • Three other bus stops within the exchange will be for passenger pick-up
    • New shelters will be within the exchange and one installed for the northbound rapid bus route
    • New lighting, utility servicing, concrete sidewalks, concrete bus pads and directional signage
    • Accessible public washroom building

    The project team has commenced detailed design on the Downtown Transit Exchange. A detailed site plan of the improvements can be found below:

    Transit Exchange Site Plan

    Concept Site Plan for Downtown Transit Exchange

    View from Gordon Street Crosswalk

    View from Gordon Street Crosswalk

    Artistic Rendering View from Lois Lane

    Transit Operator Respite Facility

    Through public engagement, the public has expressed their want for a development/building on 6 Commercial Street (Former Jean Burns Property) and to keep Commercial Street as a two-way road. With this in mind, the available space along 500 Commercial Street is reduced, and not large enough to provide both the transit exchange and a respite facility.

    Several nearby locations within Nanaimo’s downtown were reviewed. 35 Cavan Street was selected as the best option as it is already owned by the City, provides the easiest access for bus drivers, and will ultimately be the most cost-effective. A respite location here will accommodate driver breaks, recovery time, and future charging of battery electric buses with only a short distance between it and the exchange.  

    Cavan St Site Plan

    Concept Site Plan for Cavan Street Operator Respite Facility

    Artistic Rendering of Cavan Street Respite

    Artistic Rendering of Cavan Street Operator Respite Facility

  • Documents
  • Details
  • Background

    Finding a suitable, long-term downtown transit exchange location has been an ongoing challenge since the late 1990s when the Port Theatre was constructed on the original transit exchange site. At the time, the exchange was moved to the vacant land behind the future site of the Vancouver Island Convention Centre (VICC) at 100 Gordon Street.

    In 2006, during planning for the construction of the VICC and a hotel at 100 Gordon Street, the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) commissioned Boulevard Transportation Group (now Watt Consulting Group) to prepare a siting study for a permanent transit exchange.