Students at the University of Victoria and Camosun College will soon have a voice at the commission overseeing local B.C. Transit service.
The Victoria Regional Transit Commission – which determines route configurations, sets fares and approves transit capital spending – voted on Feb. 18 to give student societies from both schools one non-voting seat. The VRTC is currently made up of elected politicians from Saanich, Victoria and alternating members from Esquimalt-Oak Bay and both the Peninsula and West Shore communities.
“We went with a non-voting seat because a voting seat would require a change in legislation around regional transit commissions. That would have taken some time and lobbying,” said Greg Atkinson, UVic Student Society director of external relations. Post-secondary students pay for unlimited bus access each semester through B.C. Transit’s U-Pass program.
Atkinson said the commission seat will be filled on a rotating basis with a member from Camosun’s student society beginning at the VRTC’s June 16 meeting. The two student societies represent about 36,000 undergraduate students across Greater Victoria.
“Our seat means we get agendas, budgets, reports beforehand so we know what to expect as issues come forward,” Atkinson said.
The motion was brought forward by Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell and seconded by Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. Atwell vowed last October he would push for VRTC student society representation if elected to office.
“The students did a lot of the work and presentation,” Atwell said. “We drafted the motion and because it didn’t require a legislative change, we were able to vote on it. I’m glad to see student societies participate in a more formal way.”
Desjardins said the vote was unanimous after students spent the past few months lobbying VRTC members.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. Now, the second step is to look at a legislative change at the provincial level,” Desjardins said.
The governance structure of the VRTC has been debated for years. Some politicians want its authority to be transferred to the Capital Regional District, while others propose opening up the commission to more permanent municipal and stakeholder members.
Desjardins favours the latter option.
“It seems a little ridiculous to only have one Peninsula and one West Shore seat when they’re the fastest growing communities,” she said. “That’s where the expansion will be and they need more of a voice.”
Atkinson said student representation at the transit commission is precedent-setting across B.C.
B.C. Transit staff will bring back a report to the VRTC in June that outlines how a legislative change might occur to allow for more voting members.