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Bus drivers’ union speaks out about transit troubles

A new poll commissioned by the bus drivers’ union shows locals think transit funding should be increased and responsibility for public transit should be in the hands of the municipalities, rather than the province.

“Our union has been deeply concerned with the obvious problems that Victoria Regional Transit System, part of B.C. Transit, has experienced in recent years,” said CAW Local 333 president Ben Williams. “Everyone in Victoria knows about the problems, bus overcrowding, long wait times, pass-ups of thousands of riders each month due to full buses, and lastly the lack of adequate late night service.

“Despite bus rider dissatisfaction and ongoing complaints from our drivers, there has been little positive response (from B.C. Transit) to date.”

The poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion on behalf of CAW Local 333, the union representing Victoria bus drivers, was conducted Jan. 27 to Feb. 1.

The poll, which asked 462 Greater Victoria residents six questions regarding their use of transit, found 51 per cent of riders experienced overcrowding, 42 per cent complained of long wait times and 44 per cent noted a lack of late night service.

“We have been extremely gratified to discover that the overwhelming majority of Greater Victoria residents want much better bus service. The polling shows we need more buses, increased handyDART service … better night service and to create bus-only lanes to improve rush hour traffic. That’s what Victoria expects,” said Williams.

The poll showed 67 per cent of respondents think bus-only lanes during morning and evening rush hour would improve the speed of transit service in the region.

“Our members know from first-hand experience that bus-only lanes will make rush hour travel so much better,” said Williams.

Of the people asked, a large number indicated they would like to see increased handyDART bus service for people with disabilities and seniors.

“An overwhelming 82 per cent want increased handyDART bus service. Only six per cent were opposed,” he said. Williams noted that those with disabilities and many seniors must rely on public transit for daily living. “Unfortunately, they simply can’t depend on the handyDART service because of lack of buses and service hours. Surely our most vulnerable citizens deserve better transit service.”

He pointed out that B.C. Transit spends a large amount of money by providing a 50 per cent subsidy toward the cost of taxi rides when handyDART is not available.

“The amount of funds that are spent on taxi service in Victoria as a subsidy for handyDART because they don’t have the service is absolutely huge. I think the public would be astonished to see the figures,” Williams said, although he was unable to provide the amount.

The union intends to work with all levels of government to end problems in the system and make public transit better, he said. “It’s time to take action, to improve bus service for everyone and make public transit a better option so more people can leave their cars at home.”

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