Greater Victoria students are hoping for a seat at the transit decision-making table, a voting seat that is.
The University of Victoria and Camosun College student societies share a non-voting seat on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, a role that limits them to advocacy. The students want a voting seat on the commission, which is — in accordance with current provincial legislation — comprised solely of Greater Victoria elected officials.
The University of Victoria and Camosun College student societies said in a press release that they represent the largest transit rider stakeholder group in Greater Victoria, and that should come with decision-making power. The student groups also said the U-Pass program of both schools makes up a “significant portion” of the region’s transit funding.
The VRTC’s Feb. 23 meeting includes a notice of motion that would have the commission send a letter to the Ministry of Transportation requesting the student seat become a voting one.
The University of Victoria Student Society’s Emily Lowan said they hope Victorians will contact the commission and support the student vote request.
“We have a unique opportunity to rebuild our community’s infrastructure after COVID-19, and it’s clear that large demographics of transit users will need to have a say,” said Lowan, UVSS’s director of campaigns and community relations.
The student societies claim transit boards and authorities in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa have benefited from giving transit users a role in decision making.
“In Greater Victoria, however, transit users have been largely shut out of the process,” the release said. “Students and rural riders experience the effects of an overburdened transit system first-hand, and yet have no decision-making power.”
Under the British Columbia Transit Act, a regional transit commission must have no fewer than seven members who are “persons holding elected office on a municipal council or regional district board.” The current legislation outlines specific Greater Victoria mayors, councillors and elected officials that must make up the commission.
The news release said the university’s Graduate Student Society, The Royal Roads University Student Association and Unifor Local 333 (the union that represents Greater Victoria bus drivers) are “strongly in favour” of the student voting seat.