Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff questions whether free transit passes will make any difference in encouraging more transit use.                                Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff questions whether free transit passes will make any difference in encouraging more transit use.

Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff questions whether free transit passes will make any difference in encouraging more transit use. Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff questions whether free transit passes will make any difference in encouraging more transit use.

Saanich councillor questions effectiveness of free transit passes for youth

Coun. Judy Brownoff said efforts should focus on improving service levels

A Saanich councillor questions whether free transit passes would make any difference in encouraging more transit use.

“Quite honestly, if free transit passes were so great, every jurisdiction in the world would be doing it,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff. “What I hear on the street is that people want more service.”

Brownoff made these comments as council debated and supported a motion from Coun. Nathalie Chambers that eventually calls on Saanich to support efforts by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. It asked staff to report back on the effects of eliminating user fees for people under 18 with an eye towards launching a pilot project in the 2020-21 budget. Staff will reports its findings next month.

RELATED: Victoria transit board investigates free bus-rides for youth

Other councillors agreed with Brownoff’s argument, including Couns. Karen Harper and Zac de Vries, who pointed to areas with limited service in Saanich.

“Some areas of Saanich, your combined time of walking to the bus stop and waiting for the next bus to come is well over two hours, and those are things that we need to be addressing if people are going to be able to take transit across our municipality,” said de Vries in calling service levels the “paramount issue.”

But if councillors generally agreed with the need for improved service, the public also heard concerns about funding levels.

Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the transit commission, said it has three sources of revenue: the gas tax, the property tax, and the fare box in noting that a free youth pass would actually lower available revenues.

Turning to the issue of funding, Brownoff said the provincial government also has a role to play in funding transit for low-income families in warning that a free youth pass might actually create a substantial revenue hole.

Coun. Colin Plant welcomed the discussion, noting that the City of Victoria is moving ahead with free youth passes after the regional commission voted to grant the city subsidized pass system to Victoria residents aged 18 and under. The passes will be similar to those offered at the University of Victoria and Camosun College, where students pay $135 as part of their student fees for a subsidized pass, except that the City of Victoria will cover the bill, partly through funds from Sunday parking fees.

RELATED: Free transit passes coming for Victoria youth this fall

While this move has drawn praise, critics say it treats youth living along or near key roads differently, depending on which side of the Victoria-Saanich border they find themselves, a point found in Chambers’ initial notice of motion. It called on staff to look for alternative funding options with an eye towards offering the same service in Saanich.

Plant said he would have been curious in knowing the direction of that research in expressing support for free youth bus passes. “I may be in the minority on this council,” he said.

While acknowledging the need for improved service, municipalities should also work to create life-time transit users, he said.

Plant also said that Saanich residents might be willing to support a one per cent property tax lift to fund a free youth bus pass. “But I am not comfortable tonight to say that this is the way we should go,” he said.

This said, he believes council would support a free youth bus pass if Saanich had the same lever as Victoria. “That being said, we don’t have a lever to pull and that is something we will have to consider.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

BC Transitpublic transit

Just Posted

The Victoria International Airport saw its revenues plummet in 2020. Officials hope a proposed warehouse will be a significant revenue generator. (Black Press Media file photo)
Head of Victoria Airport Authority makes economic pitch for Sidney warehouse project

Geoff Dickson said Sidney stands to earn $325,000 in annual taxes

Participants take part in a previous Walk for Alzheimer’s. This year’s event is being held virtually and participants are asked to set a walking or fitness challenge during May. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria residents invited to set fitness challenge for Alzheimer’s

IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s goes virtual during the month of May

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Cadboro Bay teen meets with minister after advocacy against Coastal GasLink

15-year-old Claremont student and George Heyman discussed the project for about 30 minutes

A building in the 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night after a suspicious fire was started. Police arrested an arson suspect Sunday. (Courtesy of Victoria Fire Department)
Arson suspect arrested following Esquimalt structure fire

Building in 300-block of Mary Street sustained significant damage Saturday night

The City of Victoria hopes to improve its cultural spaces this year and it wants non-profits to help. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Grants up to $125,000 open to Victoria non-profit arts and cultural organizations

Victoria Cultural Infrastructure Grant applications close at the end of May

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Most Read