EDITORIAL: Transit’s funding enigma

Politician should ask for a public referendum on whether people are willing to pay more

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission’s request to add two cents per litre more to local fuel prices this year, to help cover transit service expansion, has been turned down by the province.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone let the commission know the request will be reconsidered for 2016, but it brings up a question: who should be paying more to help transit expand in this region; bus riders, gasoline buyers, or just plain everyone?

While two cents a litre isn’t a major hardship for drivers, the gas tax is a hammer-on-the-head strategy penalizing drivers who may or may not choose to use transit in future.

Raising transit fares again to raise the needed revenue, rather than taxing drivers more, is a tactic the commission has little appetite for.

For years, B.C. Transit has done its best to get more people riding the bus. In the big picture it’s the right thing to do: reduce gridlock and do less harm to the environment.

Over time, our dependence on our vehicles has led to regular traffic logjams on both major arteries into downtown.

When the option to take transit is there, drivers still don’t leave their vehicles at home. It’s a sign the people in charge of the bus system still haven’t done a good enough job selling people on why taking the bus is a better choice.

It’s kind of a Catch-22: many people won’t use the system until it’s better, but more people need to use the system to allow and pay for expanded service.

The local politicians who make up the transit commission should ask for a public referendum on whether people are willing to pay more, either through taxes or fares, for expanded service.