Victoria transit commission votes down free bus passes for youth

·2 min read

For a second time, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission has decided against exploring the possibility of extending Victoria's fare-free public transit service program for youth to the rest of the Capital Region.

After the first motion was defeated in a split-vote last August, Victoria mayor and commissioner Lisa Helps urged the commission to revisit the idea, in light of the success she says she's seen with the program in Victoria.

Last December, the City of Victoria offered 7,200 free bus passes to youth aged 12 to 19, with the costs covered by parking revenue from this year and last.

In January around 30 per cent of the free passes were used, which Helps defined as a success compared to the seven per cent of Greater Victoria's overall population that uses public transit.

This morning, the eight-person Commission delivered another split vote — four in favour, four against.

Susan Brice, a Saanich councillor and the commission's chair, voted against it both times.

Outside the BC Transit office, Brice said that all resources should go toward offering a more comprehensive and frequent bus service to the more rural communities in Greater Victoria.

"To have supported the motion would have detracted from where we are putting our focus," said Brice. "At some point, when we've reached a system that meets the needs of the greatest number of people, I say sure, let's look at [free transit]."

Victoria mayor says outcome is disappointing

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the outcome of the vote is very disappointing.

"I was hoping today that we could look forward in a comprehensive way at what the future of the region looks like," said Helps.

She said that to offer free bus fares to youth "doesn't mean that we're not going to have service expansions on the West Shore. It doesn't mean that we're not going to pay attention to the kids in Sooke who do not even have access to a bus right now."

Adam van der Zwan/CBC
Adam van der Zwan/CBC

Meanwhile, a small group of youth and supporters of the motion rallied outside BC Transit.

Emma-Jane Burian, a student from the West Shore region, said she's "incredibly disappointed" with the vote because she understands "the implications of how hard it is to get to other places" in the area.

She said offering free transit to youth would help those families with lower income who live on the region's outskirts, and would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Susan Brice said those who supported the motion "should be heartened" that the commission has looked at the various options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has decided that expanding the service will create the most positive impact on the environment.

Helps said the commission will not be revisiting the motion again in the near future.

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