OUR VIEW: Transit budget welcome news for taxpayers

And while the good news will keep the sun shining on B.C. Transit for now, there are clouds on the horizon.

B.C. Transit should enjoy its moment in the sun while it can.

The provincial Crown agency has managed to avoid adding to property tax bills and has found a way to restore the equivalent of almost 300 days of service to the region.

The hours were trimmed from routes across Greater Victoria last summer.

Now, those hours have been repurposed to help reduce the wait times for handyDART passengers – who reportedly have had to book two weeks in advance – and to lower the number of times riders will be passed up by busses on routes heading to the University of Victoria and Camosun college.

HandyDART is an invaluable service for many people who might not otherwise have the means to get around in the community.

At UVic, the push to have more people choose public transit over driving to campus was hampered by experiences many people had waiting for the bus.

Almost 5,000 more hours of transit time have been added to routes that primarily serve students, while 2,000 hours will be injected into the handyDART system.

We welcome the decision to address these two issues, which affect people who are among the most dependant on a reliable transit system.

And while, under this budget, pass holders will pay a few dollars more a month, there was little appetite among home and business owners for another bump to their annual property taxes. Businesses, in particular, will be happy about an expected decrease in taxes for their transit levy. The average business will pay about $1,715 — down $53 from last year. Homeowners won’t face any increase, after paying $28 more on average last year from 2010.

And while the good news will keep the sun shining on B.C. Transit for now, there are clouds on the horizon.

A provincial review of B.C. Transit is looking into serious questions about the agency’s fiscal accountability and governance.

In the meantime,Transit has saved money by fighting rampant fraud. There has also been a windfall from gas tax revenue, both of which helped the company post a $1.7 million surplus.

And there’s still a question about whether those savings simply represent over-taxation in previous budgets. If they do, taxpayers will have every right to demand changes to how B.C. Transit makes its decisions.

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