Colwood mayor Rob Martin says giving free youth transit passes isn’t the answer to solving BC Transit ridership – it’s an investment in more service across the region, including the West Shore. (Black Press Media file photo)

Colwood mayor Rob Martin says giving free youth transit passes isn’t the answer to solving BC Transit ridership – it’s an investment in more service across the region, including the West Shore. (Black Press Media file photo)

Colwood mayor says increased service better option than free youth transit passes

‘Victoria only thinks about bringing everyone to the downtown core,’ says Rob Martin

Colwood mayor Rob Martin says Victoria city council’s latest push for free youth bus transit regionally is a step in the wrong direction.

In a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 30, Victoria passed the motion to bring the idea of free passes for youth under 18 to Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) for a second time.

The first proposal was voted down in August 2019, when it reached a tie, with Martin voting ‘no’.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria commission says ‘no’ to regional youth transit pass pilot

In a tweet Tuesday, the Colwood mayor expressed his frustration with the motion, as he believes the West Shore needs more infrastructure support before more free passes are handed out.

The 50 bus route has been known to be one of the busiest bus routes in the region.

RELATED: Full buses leave Colwood woman fuming over commute from West Shore

“I was fine if Victoria wanted to step up themselves, but I’m certainly not supportive of taking it at a regional standpoint,” says Martin. “Victoria [city council] only focuses on bringing everyone to the downtown core. They don’t think about moving people around our growing West Shore communities.”

Colwood grew by three per cent to 18,867 between 2018 and 2019. In fact, Colwood made the Top 10 list of B.C.’s fastest-growing communities above 5,000 people, alongside View Royal, Sooke, and Langford. Langford topped the list with a population growth of 5.2 per cent. In comparison, Victoria grew by 1.9 per cent.

ALSO READ: Langford ranks as fastest growing community in B.C.

Martin referenced how some students commute between Belmont and Royal Bay Secondary in the middle of the day for classes. Notably, the 54 bus route connects the schools only once every two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. When students are commuting in the middle of the day, missing one bus could result in missing an entire class.

“I’m hearing that Royal Bay students would rather have more frequent busses coming versus free bus passes,” Martin said. “If we expand services and make our bus fleet the most attractive option of transportation, then people will pay the fare willingly.”

The motion for regional youth bus passes will be presented at an upcoming VRTC meeting on Feb. 25.

aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com

BC Transit