Transit fees hit disadvantaged residents hardest: council

Oak Bay supports tax increase, seeks review of fare changes

Coun. Tom Croft

Oak Bay heartily supports a two-cent raise in the transportation tax and just as vehemently opposes recent fare changes.

Council supported a fuel tax raise from 3.5 to 5.5 cents, as requested by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in a letter.

About $125 million in capital expenditures are needed to upgrade transit exchanges, the fleet and operating centres for Greater Victoria over the next five years, said a letter submitted by the transit commission. This tax generates approximately $11.7M annually to help cover the local share of transit operating and capital expenses.

The request was made to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure in 2013 with the backing of the CRD, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce and other organizations throughout the region. At a recent meeting with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Commission was informed that the request has been forwarded to the Minister of Finance for consideration in this year’s budget.

Oak Bay offered its support.

“I support the gas tax increase, but believe we should write a letter asking the Transit Authority to review those most impacted,” said Coun. Tom Croft, who made the motion.

“The fee increases directly impact seniors, students and the disadvantaged in our community,” said Croft. “Increasing the single fare from $1.65 to $2.50 and eliminating the two-hour transfer opportunity will directly affect these groups’ ability to get out of the house, get to school (or) get to the doctor. A round trip will now cost $5, an enormous increase.”

Victoria Regional Transit Commission maintained the monthly pass for seniors and youth at $45 but discontinued transfers, the multi-month youth pass and the youth/senior tickets.

“I think everybody should be concerned,” Croft said after the meeting. “It’s absurd.”

For example, he said, in Oahu a bus pass for a senior lasts four years for $15 and then a $5 sticker for it each month.

“That’s the kind of thing we need if we want to actually get people in buses and out of cars,” he said.

“Seniors need to get out of their houses … They want us to age in place, but this is now restricting people from going to places they have always gone to,” he said. “And I’m hearing it from parents with students.”

Oak Bay will write to the authority recommending a review of the fee increase and the impacts on seniors, students and the disadvantaged.