The Capital Regional District (CRD) is calling on the senior governments to fund improvements to the region’s public transit system as a means to increase service, support economic recovery and help achieve climate change goals.
During a board meeting June 24, the CRD passed a motion submitted by three directors – Saanich Couns. Ned Taylor and Rebecca Mersereau and Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday – to send a letter to members of the provincial and federal government asking for increased funding for improvements to public transportation, to improve access to transit and support economic resilience in the region.
This was “already a pressing issue prior to COVID-19. We desperately need more dollars in our system,” Taylor told Black Press Media.
Thousands of residents rely on public transit to get around the region and, as an active transportation user himself, Taylor feels there hasn’t been a hard enough push for transit improvements in the past.
He pointed to gaps in the existing system and areas with intermittent service which results in crowded buses and riders left behind. Increased frequency is even more important now because of the social distancing requirements which have reduced capacity on buses, he said.
Taylor feels with funding the region could consider new forms of public transportation – such as light rail – to serve the growing population and help reduce the region’s emissions.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns was the only director to oppose the motion. He called it a “non-essential item” and “too restrictive” as it specifically outlined where stimulus money could be spent.
“I can’t help but think that there’s a number of members here that don’t really see the new world that we’re entering,” he said, noting that higher taxes are likely on the way to cover the costs of the COVID-19 initiatives that are still supporting many people. He added that with more people working from home, there’s a possibility that there won’t be a need for increased transportation.
The CRD board chair will write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, B.C. Premier John Horgan, the minister of transportation and infrastructure calling for “new investments and reliable annual funding to support increased public transportation.” The letter will also be copied to other members of both the provincial and federal governments including MLAs and MPs representing the CRD and to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission which has also called for transit improvements.
Taylor hopes to see the “senior levels of government put their money where their mouth is.”