The City of Victoria will be on its own in the Capital Region when it comes to offering youth free transit passes.
At the Victoria Regional Transit Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, the idea of launching a pilot study for a regional youth pass was vetoed by commissioners, who felt the funding could be better suited for other investments.
“I think it’s fair to say that at a conceptual level we support the idea of free transit, but in the end the decision was to maintain our focus, which is based on keeping the fares at the level they are at and increasing service throughout the system,” said Susan Brice, chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.
Brice added that for many of the other municipalities in the Capital Region free transit would be a moot offer.
“In a densely populated area where there’s pretty good transit service, moving towards free youth passes will be well received,” she said. “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.”
The City of Victoria also has a strong revenue source for the passes. In May, the City of Victoria began instating fees for Sunday street parking, a move that could generate over $500,000 per year. In total, the costs of the subsidized youth transit passes will cost the City of Victoria $850,000 annually.
For other municipalities where parking is not as profitable, costs for youth passes would have to come from taxes. The only other two local points of revenue for the Victoria Regional Transit System come from the buses’ fare boxes and the provincial gas tax fund.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she was disappointed that the motion wasn’t moved forward.
“I mostly feel bad for the kids living across the region,” Helps said. “I was disappointed to see that even to do a business case, to do a pilot project or to see preliminary results wasn’t approved.”
The youth passes are set to come into effect in the Victoria in the fall, some time after September. It will be available to all youth residing at a Victoria address.
“We’ll be the small powerhouse, piloting things as usual,” Helps said.
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