Mayors work to expedite transit governance changes

The Capital Regional District could take on the job of making regional transit and transportation planning decisions by year’s en

Efforts to transfer control of transit in Greater Victoria are gaining traction.

The Capital Regional District could take on the job of making regional transit and transportation planning decisions by year’s end if Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard have their way.

They planned to meet with B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom in Victoria on Wednesday in the hopes he can expedite the changes, which can only be approved at the provincial level.

Graham Young, Victoria councillor and chair the Capital Regional District board of directors, was expected to attend, and several mayors from throughout the province were  invited.

The Capital Regional District’s board of directors agreed in June to ask Lekstrom for permission to take management of transit away from the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

The push is to put transit in the hands of a public body that has more regional representation, rather than the commission, which has seven provincially appointed members who represent five municipalities: Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich, Sooke and Central Saanich.

B.C. Transit has matured to the point where decisions that the commission is required to address are much more complex, and have a regional impact, said Christopher Causton, Oak Bay mayor and commission chair.

“This is getting into a much bigger deal than routes and rates,” said Causton, who didn’t attend the meeting with Lekstrom.

But Saanich Mayor and commission member, Frank Leonard, said there was a time when B.C. Transit relied on the commission for more direction, as it should.

“Now we’ve regressed to a very minimal relationship (with B.C. Transit in the past five years),” said Leonard. “We need accountability and we need transparency.”

Fortin and Leonard are among more than 40 B.C. mayors who have spent the year calling for changes to the way transit is governed regionally.