Businesses have been writing to Central Saanich council about transit issues affecting their competitiveness. Council responded by unanimously passing three of Coun. Niall Paltiel’s motions regarding transit.
At the Central Saanich Committee of the Whole on June 24, council discussed a range of issues with the visiting Saanich Peninsula Transit Commissioner Geoff Orr, also mayor of North Saanich. Prior to the meeting there had been a little disquiet that an official elected in another municipality represented Central Saanich’s transport needs. However, Paltiel says he and his colleagues were impressed with Orr’s knowledge of, and commitment to, Central Saanich’s transport challenges.
“I was impressed with Commissioner Orr. He had done a lot of work on the needs of Central Saanich and is working proactively on the issues.”
The motions that were ratified called for a letter be sent to the Victoria Transit Commission and the Province of British Columbia, requesting consideration of three key issues. These are the restoration of transit service to the Brentwood loop and commuter times in future scheduling, an increase to the Keating industrial park and Tanner Ridge service, and implementing a one- to five-year annual transit pass.
There has been a clamour, especially among youth, for no-user fee transit, but Paltiel feels a more realistic and pressing need is for an expansion and frequency of bus service. In this vein, he is keen for the route that once looped around Butchart Gardens to be re-instated. The gardens are keen as it would provide a better connection to Victoria, and allow employees and visitors greater access.
Plans are in motion for a more formalized transit hub at Keating industrial park, but councillors say businesses closer to the highway would like a transit service increase as increasingly struggle to retain staff. Some of the biggest businesses there have written letters and with 6,000 employees working in and around Keating, there is growing urgency for improved service. Paltiel notes that improved bus coverage would also help commuters ditch their cars for a seat on the bus, helping the district’s carbon emission goals.
“It makes it easier, especially for people who live in Saanichton or Brentwood Bay. It gives people an incentive to make a habitual lifestyle change, to switch from personal vehicles to public transit,” says Paltiel.
The third motion passed involves extending bus passes up to five years. Paltiel hopes that such an extension would result in a significant discount, inform BC Transit of the need for more enhanced service and give commuters a real incentive to switch to public transport. One of the more innovative aspects of the idea would be to work with property developers, so new suites that don’t provide a parking spot or a general parking lot could instead provide long-term transit passes for new residents.
Orr will take the information to the commission and report back.