EDITORIAL: B.C. letting down transit system

The B.C. Liberals talk about investing in transportation but their focus is more on road infrastructure than getting people out of vehicles.

Regardless of one’s politics, there is general agreement that one of the keys to easing traffic congestion on major arteries is getting more people to use alternative forms of transportation, such as transit.

The B.C. Liberals make noises about investing in transportation – the McKenzie interchange project is their flagship in our region – but their focus is more on road infrastructure than getting people out of their vehicles.

The rejection by the province of a Greater Victoria Transit Commission request to increase the transit-funding gas tax in the Capital Region by two cents, to 5.5 cents per litre, proved the Liberals have little interest in attacking the root cause of traffic tieups, which is too many vehicles on the road.

The GVTC has been asking in vain since 2008 for a modest hike in the gas tax – this week drivers absorbed a 10 cents/litre jump in the cost of regular fuel. Without this virtually painless hit to the taxpayer, B.C. Transit has a hard time making the transportation impact it could have around the region, and especially on the West Shore and Sooke, the source of much of the region’s traffic flow into Victoria.

To be clear, the bus system’s role is not strictly to take cars off the busiest roads, it’s to move people where they need to be in a timely fashion, whenever that happens to be.

Not having the funding to institute system improvements that would help to better accomplish that function ties the hands of GVTC directors and transit planners. It leaves them with the unpalatable option of working to maintain the status quo, with the shuffling around of resources one of the few actions they can take to address service shortcomings.

In the past we’ve called out B.C. Transit for not doing a good enough job selling commuters on the idea of busing as a viable and efficient option for their transportation needs, and for not delivering on that promise.

But with shortsighted decisions by the province preventing them from moving on much-needed service improvements, it’s time to start seriously questioning the commitment to transportation by the B.C. Liberals.