Victoria city councillors vote for free public transit, but hard sell for premier

Victoria city councillors vote for free public transit, but hard sell for premier

WATCH:  The daily fare for bus fare is $2.50 in Greater Victoria. But paying for public transit could be a thing of the past if city councillors have their way. But as Mary Griffin reports, not everyone is on board.

When passengers line up to get onto the bus, the fare is $2.50.

But if Victoria city councillors, including Jeremy Loveday, get their way, the fare box will disappear from all BC Transit buses.

“Yesterday, the City of Victoria passed a resolution supporting the idea of phasing out transit fares in an attempt to take climate action,” Loveday said on Friday.

READ MORE: Victoria city council endorses proposal for free transit in the Capital Region during committee of the whole

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission collects $43 million from the fare box every year. That money would have to be replaced, according to Chair Susan Brice.

“It would be a concern to lose $43 million of farebox revenue. I think that these are the kind of things that the commission would be wanting to talk about,” Brice said.

The West Shore is the fastest growing region on the island.  Gridlock in and out is only expected to get worse.  That is something Premier John Horgan wants to remedy through increased transit infrastructure, not free rides.

“Victoria is a terminus point. And the transit system tends to have to build out around those areas that are moving in and out of the core. And that means Langford, Colwood, Sooke, Sidney, North Saanich, Central Saanich. Those are where that we need to focus our attention,” Horgan said.

But Loveday says it’s time for action. “The only way people are going to start taking public transit is if it’s cheaper and more convenient than taking their car,” Loveday said.

Council is also proposing to increase property taxes as a way to pay for free public transit. But that’s a hard sell.

“If all of that was to go onto property taxes, then obviously that would be less money to have for expanding service,” Brice said.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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