Call it a patchwork solution.
Like repairing a flat tire with a piece of duct tape, the province’s $1.63-million influx for BC Transit will lead to short-term gains for West Shore riders, but neglects to find a much-needed long-term solution for the region’s transportation woes.
The extra funds will allow for an added 20,000 service hours, eight new buses and an expansion of two West Shore routes that service Dockyards workers and post-secondary students.
This is good news, and it’s nice to see that the Victoria Regional Transit Commission finally appears to recognize that the growing West Shore needs help. But we can’t help looking at this as a quick fix for a problem that isn’t going away.
Earlier this year, the province rejected BC Transit’s request for a two-cent increase in the region’s gas tax. It’s a proposal that 12 of the region’s 13 municipalities endorsed – only Metchosin opted not to – and would have brought in more than $6 million.
In February, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said there isn’t a clear consensus from the public on the appetite for the increased tax. Maybe that’s the case, but then the province needs to look at different solutions that will lead to a long-term fix because clearly the gas tax at its current level isn’t enough.
The Capital Region supplies transit with two-thirds of its funding, with the remaining third coming from the province. A 50/50 split is the standard elsewhere in B.C., where transit funding isn’t helped through a gas tax. Perhaps that’s the model the province needs to move towards if increasing the gas tax remains unappealing.
It’s also hard not to be cynical about the timing of this announcement in the leadup to the “official” election campaign.
Public funds seem to be thrown around often at this time of the election cycle, as the sitting government looks to put on a happy face for voters. “$1.63 million in cash” certainly sounds better to the average voter than “increased gas tax,” but the old adage of “you get what you pay for” seems to apply here.
May 9 is a little more than a month away, and the wheels keep on turning.