Province lowers BC Transit funding, asks them to take from $42M reserve 

WatchIt was worrying news earlier this week for bus riders, after B.C. transit funding was cut in the new provincial budget. But as Julian Kolsut reports, the transit system may have money in the bank to compensate.

The province has lowered B.C. Transit’s budget, and is asking the crown corporation to use more of their reserve.

In the budget for this fiscal year announced on Monday, the province quietly stripped away $2,073,000 million, taking the funding from $121,206,000 million to $119,133,000 million.

In a statement to CHEK News, the Ministry of Finance said drawing from the reserves was previously planned, saying it was in the B.C. Transit Service Plan.

And that “[In] recent years have resulted in significant surpluses with an operating reserve of $42 million at the end of last fiscal… government funding is intended to go to the services people rely on. These amassed reserves in this situation do not reflect the Province’s priority of supporting services.”

B.C. Transit is not directly criticizing the funding,  and said in a statement saying it is an “Adequate budget to maintain service and enhance service.”

But they went on to say they are “recognizing this is a three year budget process and that the future years are still not confirmed, we are discussing this shortfall with them.”

The move frustrated transit proponents.

“It’s almost unbelievable that we have got to this stage,” said Eric Doherty, a transit planner and a member of the Better Transit Alliance Greater Victoria.

“We have a Green Party and NDP party working together, and this far into the mandate they are cutting transit and funding all these highway projects.”

Doherty says a healthy surplus would give B.C. Transit more flexibility , and that the change may already have some consequences.

“It’s going to be having big impacts on decision making… at the upcoming transit commission meeting the commissioners are going to be voting on whether to extend the youth pass program to all of greater Victoria, and if they are looking at a funding crunch, they are going to be more reluctant to do that.”

Some riders were worried about the move, as many routes in Victoria have faced delays and cancellations.

“B.C. transit is already on thin ice, so maybe a bit more careful rather than just whatever cause there is a lot of complaints that I’m hearing.”

Others feel it will not impact service. The province says over the next decade they along with the federal and local governments will be partnering to fund $1.2 billion in transit investments.

B.C. Transit, The Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Finance were not available for on camera interviews Friday.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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