Funding crux of school transit concerns

Oak Bay council narrowly approves letter endorsing controversial pilot co-ordinator position

Coun. Michelle Kirby is bound and determined to change the travel patterns of students in Oak Bay.

More questions than answers left her fellow council members unsure and narrowly supporting her motion to write a letter to the Capital Regional District endorsing a school travel planning co-ordinator position. It was a direct response to a query from Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin whose council did pen an endorsement of the project to the CRD.

“This is putting your energy and support behind kids and their well being,” said Kirby. “We really have to be assertive.”

That letter of support came after Kirby spearheaded a meeting at Oak Bay municipal hall inviting approximately 40 potential partners.

Child health and wellness, as well as neighbourhood complaints about traffic and congestion around schools are primary reasons to create such a position, as “kids are more and more travelling by car,” Kirby said.

“You can’t do this without some co-ordinated effort,” she added. “I’d really like to have my own council’s support for this initiative.”

Coun. Pam Copley agreed there’s a need, referring back to the successful use in other Island communities. In the Comox Valley three communities shared the cost of a pilot position that they maintained after the trial period.

Maybe funding isn’t the place to start, Copely said, noting more concerning is not having school board support.

“This could be a worthwhile endeavour to work toward,” she said.

Coun. Kevin Murdoch, quick to point out he rides with his kids to school, appreciates the effort but is concerned about a lack of funding attached to the concept plan.

Kirby emphasized that at this point she only wants council to voice support, and that she’s hopeful grants could fund the project.

“We’re not there yet. I want to see us advocate to the CRD,” Kirby said.

Coun. Cairine Green admitted she’s not opposed to the idea, but concerned about committing to the CRD without a funding plan.

“I don’t know how it would directly benefit Oak Bay,” she added, noting some concerns may fall under police issues or parent advisory councils. “The issue is the logistics around a position like this.”

Mayor Nils Jensen however, felt that the place to get some of those answers would be the CRD.

“We do not have the capacity to answer (those questions) at our staff level,” he said, also hoping not to “open another can of worms.”

Oak Bay will send a letter of endorsement to the CRD; Murdoch, Green and Herbert opposed.

Herbert was the most vehemently opposed to the idea.

“This is the parents responsibility,” he said, pondering aloud the number of paid staff at the CRD who started as pilot positions. “It’s going to be a pilot, but then it never goes away. … I question the logic of this.”