David Helmer

Businesses promote Transit use through passes

Employees save money on regular bus pass prices with help from employer

B.C. Transit and various municipal jurisdictions have for years actively promoted the idea of riding the bus to work instead of driving.

Yet hundreds of single-occupant vehicles continue to roll slowly along the main commuter routes from the West Shore and Saanich Peninsula in the mornings and late afternoons Monday to Friday.

While it might be easy to assume the message isn’t getting across – regular bus commuters would beg to differ – the success of B.C. Transit’s ProPASS program in Greater Victoria shows progress is being made.

ProPASS offers companies a chance to give their employees a discounted bus pass, paid for through regular payroll deductions of around $36.50 every two weeks. Latest counts show that 65 organizations and more than 3,000 employees are participating.

“We’re seeing growth in the program,” said David Helmer, who looks after payroll at the Fairmont Empress Hotel and rides the bus in from the Glanford Road and McKenzie Avenue area in Saanich.

“We’re getting around six new people a year and very few people drop out. Usually it’s only if they move into town and can walk to work. It’s picking up for sure, especially with gas prices being what they are.”

Upwards of 60 employees commute by bus to the Empress, which promotes a culture of sustainability in its operations and to staff.

Angela Rafuse, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, said employees love the convenience of the payroll deduction plan, noting it’s one less thing they have to worry about.

“And certainly the ease and convenience of the program is a benefit or any employer,” she said.

B.C. Transit spokesperson Meribeth Burton said exact pass rates are negotiated between the company and Transit. She added that any business with 10 or more employees can sign on to the program.

B.C. Ferries Corporation also has about 60 employees using the ProPASS system, most of whom work at head office in downtown Victoria.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries’ executive director for public affairs, said not only are new hires informed about the opportunity, the corporation’s internal messaging system lists ProPASS among services available to employees.

“We’ve been offering the program for over six years,” she said. “If anybody can cut down on their environmental impact, we think that’s a good idea.”

Besides spending less on gas, parking and maintenance, ProPASS users can also claim the transit pass expense on their income tax return.

Helmer said people sometimes forget they can use their pass at any time, such as when they come downtown for a special event, or want to take a trip out toward Sooke or Sidney on days off.

“They sometimes forget about the fact they can catch the bus there and home again.”

Inquiries about the ProPASS program can be made by calling 250-995-5682.

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