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Saanich council asking province to consider free bus passes for teens

Program would expand current free transit eligibility of kids to include youth aged 13 to 18
Saanich council voted on April 29 to urge the transportation minister and BC Transit top expand free ridership programs to include teenagers. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Saanich is taking a multi-pronged approach to pressure the provincial government and BC Transit to expand free transit offerings to include teenagers.

The province already provides free bus passes for kids 12 and under, but Saanich council wants that to include youth aged 13 to 18. Council unanimously passed a motion on April 29 to send letters to both the transportation minister and BC Transit advocating for this change.

“This can be something where we can be supporting homes and families to reduce the cost to get their kids around,” said Coun. Mena Westhaver in introducing the motion, “Especially at that age where they’re now branching out to have more responsibility and independence.”

Westhaver called it a motion of advocacy, acknowledging it was up to the province and that she was not suggesting Saanich put tax money toward the program.

Victoria had been able to get a similar program going back in 2019 without the help of the province by using parking revenue.

“We don’t have city parking lots, so there wasn’t a way of funding this,” said Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff in an interview with Black Press Media on Tuesday, April 30 . “And so it kind of stalled in Saanich.”

Phelps Bondaroff is a vocal proponent of expanding free transit programs and is working currently with the district’s transportation advisory committee to craft a similar motion to Westhaver’s, but one that would be aimed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM).

The hope is that a UBCM motion would bring even more pressure on the provincial government.

He said other municipalities are also working on the same UBCM motions in a coordinated effort.

“The goal is to have lots of municipalities send the same resolution to UBCM so it has even more strength when it hits the floor,” Phelps Bondaroff said.

He is working on a similar but separate push to urge the province to provide free transit to seniors.

The idea of free transit for youth found a receptive audience at the council meeting, though the similar measure for seniors did not get introduced for debate.

“Anything we can do to make it easier for people to use transit is important,” Coun. Karen Harper said.

READ MORE: Saanich shoots down creating bus-only lanes to UVic on McKenzie Avenue this year

About the Author: Mark Page

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