Transit autonomy needed in region

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin have the right idea in suggesting that the governance model for public transit in Greater Victoria needs revamping.

In an era where power is a great political motivator, it’s refreshing that the leaders of the two municipalities with perhaps the most to lose by broadening the decision-making base — Victoria and Saanich hold four of the seven seats on the regional transit commission — would risk losing such power.

With just five of the region’s 13 municipalities represented on the commission, it’s impossible to accurately and effectively reflect the views of the region’s residents on matters that could very well affect all of them, through service, taxes or both.

Public transportation is community infrastructure that touches all of our municipalities. As such, local governments should have more of a say in its governance.

Critics will likely criticize Leonard’s proposal to make the transit commission a CRD-level committee, where reaching consensus could be difficult. But on something as crucial to planning for growth in the region as transportation service, it makes sense to give as many affected parties as possible a voice.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins put it well when she called the current mechanism “outdated” in terms of how it responds to needs in growth areas. Giving the West Shore (population 58,450) and Saanich Peninsula (37,670) one commission member each may work from a sheer statistical perspective. But from a planning viewpoint, both those areas need more say in what the future looks like for transportation in the region.

The autonomy of Capital Region municipalities is at stake. Making B.C. Transit the contractor, rather than the decision-maker, means the people elected to make decisions for us, the politicians, would be sitting in the driver’s seat where they belong.

– Victoria News