B.C. Transit’s move to unveil a new model of community bus in Victoria last week was ill-timed at best, provocative at worst.
With company management based in Victoria, it probably made logistical sense to hold the press conference in the city, and the accompanying ridealong in the new Vicinity buses.
But at a time when labour strife continues to bubble and inconvenience the public, and local politicians are working toward gaining more authority over decision-making for transit, the timing of last week’s show-and-tell event was definitely questionable.
Some local politicians were furious that B.C. Transit trotted out the new buses on their turf, despite the fact the Victoria Regional Transit Commission has yet to OK the use of five Vicinity buses on routes in the region.
The already delicate relationship between the company and the commission was well illustrated with negative comments from Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto and Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard. The bus unveiling, benign as it might have seemed, simply proved to exacerbate that fractious association.
The bus-riding public is no doubt interested in the type of service that may one day be available to them. At any other time, Transit’s introduction of new vehicles has been met with curiosity and even a certain amount of excitement.
It could be that the commission has, in past, chosen to rubber-stamp the use of specific buses on local routes, choosing to accede to the expertise of B.C. Transit management.
In holding off their approval of the use of more of the smaller community buses, the commission was being sensitive to the current labour dispute. They are well aware that disagreement over how Transit trains and pays drivers to operate such buses is the key sticking point in the dispute.
It would have made more sense, politically, to unveil the buses somewhere else, or perhaps not at all.
Last week’s move only showed that B.C. Transit is willing to start negotiating in the media rather than at the bargaining table.