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Victoria transit plans depend on gas tax

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has big plans for 2014. There’s just one problem: it needs more money to turn those plans into reality.

“We’ve only got three sources of funding – property tax, the fare box and the gas tax,” said VRTC chair Susan Brice.

The first tangible rapid transit development breaks ground along the Douglas Street corridor in 2014 with the installation of rush hour bus lanes.

And while the $1.5-million cost of that project is included in this year’s budget, the commission is waiting for B.C. Transport Minister Todd Stone to respond to a request for a two-cent increase in Capital Region gas tax to fund future expansion.

“We feel we have used property tax and the fare box as significantly as we can right now,” Brice said. “That’s why we’re asking the province to give us some more gas tax.”

The VRTC currently receives 3.5 cents for every litre of gas sold in Greater Victoria. But with the budget increasing by three per cent this year, new project funding has to come from somewhere, Brice said.

“We’d definitely like to do some expansion, but there’s such a lead time to order new buses,” she said. “So out of our contingency fund (in 2014), we took sufficient funds to order two new buses, but we did not yet fund the operating dollars. That will come if we’re successful in our request to the province (for a gas tax increase).”

In the coming year, the VRTC is liaising with Colwood and View Royal as they develop their master transportation plans, installing 33 new bus shelters (including at the Saanichton exchange), and moving forward with expansion of the University of Victoria bus exchange. Discussions between Saanich, West Shore communities and the province have also begun to create bus priority lanes along the Island Highway and McKenzie Avenue.

Further expansion of bus lanes along Douglas Street through Saanich is still in its infancy, according to a Dec. 2013 VRTC planning report.

 

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