The City of Victoria is considering extending funding for youth bus passes between September and December. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria considers extending free transit passes for youth

Motion for extension of funding comes to council July 16

Victoria council is considering extending free youth bus passes until December.

In a motion coming to the committee of the whole on Thursday, council will look to approve funding up to $200,000 for youth bus passes between September and December.

Council will also look at funding options for the continuation of this program, depending on ridership, for the 2021 financial plan.

In December 2019, the City voted to pilot its own youth bus pass program for Victoria residents 18 and under. The program requires the city to buy 7,200 bus passes per month, to match the number of youth eligible for the passes in Victoria.

The youth passes are part of a city-wide pilot project encouraging youth to take sustainable transporation, with costs covered by Sunday street parking fees implemented in May 2019.

RELATED: City of Victoria paying for over 4,000 unused youth transit passes per month

The program has cost Victoria approximately $81,000 per month, and is set to expire in August. From December to March, the City issued about 2,367 passes per month.

However, due to impacts of COVID-19, BC Transit offered free bus fair during March, April and May, and did not charge council for that time period. In June, Victoria issued 620 youth passes.

Council wants to continue the free fare for youth, but due to low ridership, will instead buy and provide passes upon request rather than purchasing the 7,200. The City will receive a lower discount from BC Transit this way, but because there is less demand for the passes, the monthly cost is expected to only be about $30,000.

Staff will re-evaluate using the youth pass program again after December, when ridership is expected to increase.

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