Coun. Zeb King says changes need to be made across the region in regards to prioritizing public transit. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Central Saanich councillor offers counter-challenge to Victoria’s bus-riding motion

Councillor says Victoria can take things further by eliminating political perks

A Central Saanich councillor is offering a counter-challenge to the City of Victoria after spotting an inconsistency in environmental efforts.

Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow proposed a challenge to elected officials in the Capital Region to only use public transit as their sole means of transportation for one week. Dubow uses transit himself, and believes anyone making decisions about BC Transit infrastructure should have first-hand experience of the system.

Central Saanich Coun. Zeb King is also a transit user, but thinks more can be done by the city.

“I’m not against Coun. Dubow’s challenge, and in fact I challenge him right back to remove the free parking pass that’s sent out to the same politicians he’s challenging,” King said.

READ MORE: Victoria councillor challenges elected officials to use public transit for a week

Every year, the City of Victoria issues free city parking passes to elected officials in the capital region. The passes are to be used when conducting municipal business, and are valid Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Bastion Square, Broughton Street, Centennial Square and View Street parkades.

Elected officials are given a free parking pass for downtown Victoria parkades (File submitted/ Zeb King)

For years King has returned his pass, and opted to take the bus instead. He’s also written to the city about this political perk.

“These parking passes are counter to the motion,” King said. “I think [getting rid of the passes] would be more consistent with the work they’ve done with the bike lanes, with improvements to transit and their work on climate change.”

King also wants to extend a challenge to the wider region, believing more work needs to be done to further push for free bus fare for youth. In August, the Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC), of which King is not a member, had a tie vote on further pursuing the idea of a free region-wide pass for people aged 19 and under.

VRTC chair Susan Brice told Black Press at the time that the correct infrastructure wasn’t in place for all municipalities.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria commission says ‘no’ to regional youth transit pass pilot

“In a densely populated area where there’s pretty good transit service, moving towards free youth passes will be well received,” Brice said on Aug. 14. “But there are parts of the region where you can give them a free transit pass, but if there aren’t buses going there it isn’t going to work.”

King believes too many municipal leaders, including Sooke Mayor Maja Tait – who voted against the motion – aren’t looking at long-term environmental changes.

“[North Saanich] Mayor Geoff Orr supported the idea, and it’s roughly the same size of Sooke,” King said. “My challenge to Mayor Tait, who voted against free transit, is how do you plan to reduce the emissions?”

Presently, more than 50 per cent of community-based emissions in the region come from transportation.

The City of Victoria voted to go ahead with its own free youth transit pass pilot, and will be launching it on Dec. 1, 2020.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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