BC Transit walks back Canada Day closed alcohol container ban after questioning

Khadoni Pitt Chambers/Twitter
Signs at bus stops across Greater Victoria were put up announcing the now-revoked policy of a complete alcohol ban on board BC Transit buses on Canada Day.

A day after CHEK News raised questions about the ban of carrying closed containers of alcohol on BC Transit buses during Canada Day, the transit authority has reversed its stance.

The alcohol policy for Canada Day will instead return to the usual existing alcohol policy that is in effect throughout the year.

Up until Friday morning, BC Transit aimed to prohibit alcohol, whether it was closed or open, on board any BC Transit bus for the Canada Day holiday. This was a stark contrast to the usual alcohol policy the transit agency had in place for the other 364 days of the year that permitted alcohol on board — provided it was sealed and not being consumed.

BC Transit users took to social media to voice their frustration, and noted that it increased the risk that someone would have to drive intoxicated if they were trying to bring alcohol to wherever they were going.

CHEK News raised this question with BC Transit and B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure on Thursday. Friday morning an email was sent out by BC Transit reversing the policy.

“Following public input and careful consideration, BC Transit has made the decision to alter our policy regarding alcohol on buses in the Victoria Regional Transit System for Canada Day. BC Transit’s policy will be the same as every other day, with open alcohol or consumption of alcohol prohibited on BC Transit buses,” the email from BC Transit says.

“Our organization works hard to maintain a safe and respectful environment on our buses for all our customers and drivers. Inappropriate or illegal behaviour will continue to be managed as necessary in collaboration with local police.”

The alcohol ban was brought in about a decade ago after Canada Day celebrations downtown started getting violent.

On Thursday, Khadoni Pitt Chambers, an avid transit user, said this policy no longer makes sense.

“If I want to go and bring some wine over to a friend’s house on Canada Day and celebrate with a BBQ, I’m unable to do that by BC Transit’s vague wording of how it is on that signage,” Pitt Chambers said.

They question what people who went grocery shopping should do if they happened to pick up something from the liquor store as well.

Pitt Chambers said for people who rely on transit, the way the policy is written really alienates them.

“It would make more sense if maybe it were open containers of alcohol,” they explained. “But having it just be any alcohol whatsoever on transportation raises a lot of equity concerns around transit users as kind of second-class citizens.”

Their concerns are being felt at the provincial level.

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau tweeted “good public transportation is meant to be accessible, frequent and reliable. It should be an easy substitute for private modes of transportation. This sort of policy breaks from that principle at best and promotes drinking and driving at worst.”

In a statement to CHEK News, BC Transit said “while this policy has been in place for more than 10 years to ensure the safety of our customers and drivers, BC Transit apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause.”

The statement added the policy has been implemented in coordination with Victoria Police, who will assist transit personnel with this regulation.

When asked about the policy, Victoria Police deffered all questions back to BC Transit.

The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure told CHEK News on Thursday there needs to be clearer communication around the policy and he’s asked BC Transit to review it.

“BC Transit is trying to mitigate and limit the amount of soon-to-be open liquor of people crowding into downtown,” Rob Fleming said. “I get that, but we also have people using the transit system that are going to meet up with friends, hanging out in their backyards, having a bbq and they need the bus system to get around.”

Fleming had asked for the policy to be more consistent, easier to explain and understand.

RELATED: BC Transit offering free rides in Campbell River, Comox Valley this Canada Day

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