The Victoria Regional Transit Commission is delaying future expansion projects following the province’s decision to not boost the gas tax to help meet costs.
The commission was hoping for a two-cent per litre fuel tax increase in the recent provincial budget. Greater Victoria drivers already pay a 3.5-cent fuel tax.
Now the commission is holding off on property tax to fund transit expansion.
B.C. Transit staff had recommended the commission approve a 2.5 per cent property-tax increase, which would have upped the average household levy from $134.50 to $137.90.
“If we just go to taxes, then we’re accepting the province’s argument that there’s other sources of funding and allow them to download this on us,” said Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, a commission member.
The downside of the decision, however, is now the commission can’t increase service to areas like Sooke or make improvements to the system, Tait said.
Existing resources will be used to meet the needs of the transit system.
A total of $6.3 million will be drawn from the Transit Fund to address expenses, leaving about $2.1, said transit officials.
“The gas tax would have allowed service expansion,” Tait said. “Now we can’t do anything. All we can do is preserve the service we currently have.”
No increase in funding comes at a difficult time for transit as the Greater Victoria Region continues to grow, there’s more congestion on roads, and there’s a demand for more bus service.
The Transit Service Plan calls for an increase of 20,000 service hours annually, but now that’s been shelved indefinitely, Tait said.
“I’m very disappointed we will not see any improvements to transit in Sooke,” she said.
“[The province] obviously doesn’t see public transportation as a priority on the South Island.