The bus fare box could get the boot, following the City of Victoria’s proposal to drop user fees on BC Transit lines. (Black Press File Photo)

City of Victoria passes proposal to eliminate BC Transit fees

A shift in tax revenue usage could do away with bus fares

The City of Victoria is looking to eliminate user fees on the BC Transit system.

Coun. Ben Isitt and Coun. Sharmarke Dubow put forward a proposal to phase out user fees in a motion that passed 7-1 at a Thursday committee of the whole meeting.

Isitt said the move comes at a time when the region is trying to increase transit ridership to reduce its carbon footprint, something that cities in Europe and Ontario have already undertaken.

“More than half of community greenhouse gas emissions in the region come from the transportation section,” Isitt said. “So shifting from private vehicles to public transit has the potential to make the biggest impact in community-based emissions.”

Dubow, who seconded the motion, echoed Isitt’s thoughts.

“The planet and the capital regional district and Victoria are facing a climate emergency and we don’t have to say more than that,” Dubow said. “We must do everything we can to reduce our carbon emissions, and user fees are a barrier to public transit.”

ALSO READ: Victoria gears up to axe free parking on Sundays

Isitt said along with eliminating barriers to those with financial constraints that more changes would be needed to make transit as accessible as possible.

“Along with the proposal to develop an implementation plan to phase out user fees, [the motion] proposes a corresponding improvement on service levels,” Isitt said. “I think that along with the financial barrier, I think the current inadequate service levels are a major barrier to a mode shift.”

Service improvements could include expanding bus lanes, extending service hours and routes and adding more buses to the fleet.

All of these changes would need to come about by shuffling how fares are paid for. Currently, BC Transit is paid through a combination of provincial subsidies, municipal property taxes, federal gas tax transfers, advertising and bus fares.

ALSO READ: Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps appointed to BC Transit board of directors

The new system would require a shift in how revenue from property taxes are utilized, and potentially how taxes from the province and the gas tax are used.

Coun. Geoff Young was the only person on council who was hesitant about the idea.

“I think it goes too far,” Young said. “I’m already troubled in Victoria by someone taking a crowded bus for six blocks downtown pays the same fare as someone who is commuting for an hour from Sooke. The cost to the public on those two trips is enormously different. While we certainly want to move people towards transit we don’t want to suggest that travel, in the ultimate, should be free.”

It is uncertain how the matter of non-residents will use the transit system, though a couple of ideas are being floated.

“My gut feeling is that the cost of administering fares might outweigh what would be taken in revenue from visitors,” Isitt said. “There are two options; one is we’d have a pass for everyone that lives in the region as a way to identify them as a resident… or you would eliminate the fares, and then you wouldn’t capture fare from the people visiting.”

Isitt said he leaned towards the second option.

The motion passed at council on Thursday night.

Next, the proposal will be brought forward to the Transit Commission Strategic Planning session on Monday.

The city first proposed eliminating fees for youth 18 and under by instating street parking fees on Sunday, which will come into effect on May 1.

Free fare for youth 18 an younger will be piloted in 2020, with early hopes of having free fare for everyone around 2022.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Stem cell donor with rare genetic makeup needed to save Saanich man after cancer returns

Jeremy Chow is half Canton Chinese, half British and needs a donor with a similar ethnic background

Victoria Humane Society needs volunteers after flood of puppies and kittens

Pregnant cats, dogs and their litters are in need of foster care

Tomato planting controversy inspires Victoria author’s book on transforming cities

Woman behind the Collinson street mural pens third book

New UVic student housing project before Saanich council tonight

Two new buildings would add almost 700 new student housing spaces

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Police seek tips in 2015 death of Island teen Brown

Four years has passed since the body of Penelakut Island woman was discovered

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Most Read