LETTER: Service the reason for transit woes

I read with interest the story of the “conundrum” that the future of Saanich transit is a system designed for students being shunned by seniors. The issue should not be a surprise to VRTC chairperson Susan Brice.

The reason post-secondary students use the transit system so disproportionately to their demographic is that the system is essentially free to them because transit charges are automatically and unavoidably added to their student union fees. Public school students are likely significantly funded by parents or others and they too therefore have free access.

Seniors on the other hand had their discount tickets cancelled and now must purchase a monthly pass or standard fare tickets. The problem with the monthly pass is that whether you use it for 10 trips or 50, it is void at the end of the month. The $45 monthly pass only becomes more economical than other fares after 20 trips. I suggest that many seniors do not find that they will take the bus 20 times a month.

Being a senior myself, I find that transit is the least efficient method of travel to many of my destinations. Even though I live close to one of the most frequent bus routes, I can walk to three shopping centres in less than 30 minutes, but the bus will take a change of buses and at least an hour in transit. I can ride my bicycle or indeed drive my car to the same shopping centres in less time than the walk and average wait for my first bus.

I suggest that the bigger question is the whole issue of transit planning, funding and fares; as it is, it is a system that bends over backwards to serve a highly subsidized passenger cohort and fails to provide an economical service to the population cohort that the chairperson feels needs to use the system. BC Transit enjoys a heavily subsidized funding model with little accountability to bring reasonable effective service for much of the population of the region.

While they will quote the statistics of the number of passenger trips they provide, sadly, I suspect that the majority of citizens of the region do not set foot on a bus from one month to the next.

Mark Brown