A motion for free transit for all Greater Victoria youth was defeated by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission Monday. (Black Press File Photo)

Motion for Greater Victoria fare-free youth transit defeated

Victoria Regional Transit Commision votes tied 4-4

A motion for free youth transit passes in the Capital Regional District was defeated Monday, according to proponent Juliet Watts.

The motion, brought forward by grassroots organization Climate Justice Victoria, asked the commission to “prioritize climate action and social equity” by eliminating fares for youth 18 years old and younger travelling on regional public transit.

It is the second time the same motion has been defeated in a 4-4 tie.

RELATED: Climate group demands free transit for all CRD youth

Commission member and Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow said he, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch and North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr supported the motion, while Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, Colwood Mayor Rob Martin, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and commission chair Susan Brice voted against.

Dubow was disappointed with the outcome and said “fare-free transit is not only a smart move for the whole region but a way to improve health outcomes and reduce inequality.”

He said he understands concerns about capacity issues but said they would be addressed with an “active and aggressive” approach to service expansion.

Juliet Watts, the proponent representing post-secondary students in a non-voting seat on the commission said she was “very disappointed to see the commission fail to seize the opportunity to empower the youth in the CRD with fare free transit.”

“If I had the privilege to vote as the representative of the largest demographic of transit users, it would have passed,” she added. “I hope that the commission reconsiders in the future, and goes even further to make all transit free while increasing service levels.”

Climate Justice Victoria co-organizer Aven Knutson was outside the BC Transit boardroom where a number of supporters rallied during the meeting.

“I’m disappointed they aren’t showing that long-term thought to switching to funding more accessible transportation,” Knutson said. “We were hopeful they would change their minds.”

READ ALSO: More than 500 free youth transit passes picked up at Victoria’s City Hall so far

The motion was presented by a handful of students and teachers with a platform of equity and climate action.

“Cost barriers to accessing transit… means [youth] might have to choose between which opportunities and activities they can access,” Knutson said. “Including volunteer, social, education and employment opportunities.”

Knutson also said youth who use transit might be more likely to opt out of driving in the future.

The motion follows the City of Victoria’s implementation of free transit passes for City residents 18 and younger – a program paid for in part by the initiation of Sunday parking fees.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission is made up of seven elected officials including mayors for Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, Colwood and North Saanich. The commission makes decisions on route configurations, transit service levels, fares, operating budgets, spending and the local share of the annual cost of transit service in the CRD.

Black Press Media could not reach opposition voters at the time of publication.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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