Councillors from the City of Victoria are advocating for free youth transit passes regionally. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria councillors advocate once again for free youth transit passes regionally

The idea was originally rejected by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in August 2019

Councillors at the City of Victoria are trying to install free youth bus passes regionally for a second time.

In a motion coming to the committee of the whole on Thursday, Couns. Ben Isitt, Jeremey Loveday, Sarah Potts and Sharmarke Dubow advocate for the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) to reconsider launching a free bus pass pilot.

The idea was originally proposed to the VRTC in August 2019, but did not pass after reaching a tie vote.

In December 2019, the City voted to pilot its own youth bus pass program for Victoria residents 18 and under. The pilot is paid for through a combination of general revenues, and parking fares collected on Sundays.

Since the trial was launched in December more than 2,100 youth have accessed the program. It has cost the city approximately $81,000 per month. While the program has been popular, it has also revealed some divisions.

“Introduction of the City of Victoria program has also created a regional inequity in access to mobility for youth,” the proposed motion reads. “This inequity exists within specific school communities, where catchment boundaries extend across municipal borders, and the inequity also exists within neighbourhoods straddling the borders of Victoria, Esquimalt, Saanich and Oak Bay.”

In other words, youth who attend Victoria schools but who live outside of city boarders are not able to get free passes.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday said he’s heard a lot of feedback since the program was brought into place.

“Fare-free transit for youth makes our community more equitable and is an important and impactful action we can take to tackle the climate crisis,” Loveday said in an emailed statement. “Since bringing in fare-free transit for youth in Victoria, I’ve continually heard from people throughout the Region who want this program to be made available to all youth regardless of which municipality they live in.”

Coun. Sarah Potts has personally seen the impact the passes have on families.

“I was waiting line to get a pass for my daughter when I met a mother of three who shared how much of a difference this would make for her family,” Potts said. “Now that we have the test case of this programs success, I think it’s appropriate to see where the willingness of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission is now. We have heard a lot from folks outside of Victoria who would like to access this program.”

READ MORE: Greater Victoria commission says ‘no’ to regional youth transit pass pilot

Isitt is optimistic that the commissioners will be open-minded. “I’m seeing youth and parents coming to City Hall hoping to get the pass, and our staff having to turn them away,” Isitt said. “We’re hoping the commissioners will reconsider their positions”

Last year members of the VRTC were not all happy with the idea of implementing free transit passes.

“It’s a $40 million cost to do this across the board. Where will that money come from? Are we supposed to go to our taxpayers and ask how much more they want to pay so we can give away free transit?” said Sooke Mayor and VRTC Board member Maja Tait at the time.

VRTC chair Susan Brice was also against the idea.

“In a densely populated area where there’s pretty good transit service, moving towards free youth passes will be well received,” Brice told Black Press Media in August. “But there are parts of the region where you can give them a free transit pass, but if there aren’t buses going there it isn’t going to work.”

If the motion is passed, it aims to be presented at an upcoming VRTC meeting on Feb. 25.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

city councilCity of Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

West Shore Rotary Club raises $20,000 with Golf Ball Drop fundraiser

Nearly 4,000 golf balls poured onto Olympic View golf course Saturday

Construction slows weekend traffic at Millstream overpass

West Shore RCMP recommend Leigh Road exit instead

TRAFFIC: Saanich emergency crews responding to Pat Bay Highway collision

Incident took place at Haliburton Road intersection

Saanich race car driver shifts gears as pandemic cuts U.S. season short

Bill Okell, 65, sets sights on Canadian racing circuit for 2020

Work on Sidney’s Reay Creek Dam won’t wrap until 2021

Municipality expects the pond to be ‘partially drained’ again in 2021

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read