School-aged youth in Victoria will soon have access to free transit.
On Tuesday morning the Victoria Regional Transit Commission voted to grant the City of Victoria a subsidized pass system to Victoria residents aged 18 and under. The passes will be similar to those offered at the University of Victoria and Camosun College, where students pay $135 as part of their student fees for a subsidized pass, except that the City of Victoria will cover the bill.
The funds for these costs are estimated at $850,000 annually and will be funded by newly -instated Sunday parking fees.
“It’s going to have a big impact for parents and kids,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “Parents who previously had to buy a bus pass for two kids would spend $1,080 a year. Now that can be used for other things, like ballet and soccer.”
Helps also noted that the free passes offer youth more freedom to move around the city, and a greener option to get around.
“This policy kind of ushers in a whole new generation of transit users,” Helps said.
The Transit Commission also discussed two other initiatives, voting to have staff report back on what it would look like to apply the same system across the Capital Region. Currently, only students who have a residential postal code in Victoria will be offered the pass, though they’ll be free to use the pass throughout neighbouring municipalities.
Students will likely be offered the pass as part of their student ID card.
Other municipal leaders were not keen on this idea, including Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.
“It’s a $40 million cost to do this across the board. Where will that money come from? Are we supposed to go to our taxpayers and ask how much more they want to pay so we can give away free transit?” Tait said.
“Transit staff have been asked for a report and we’ll wait to see what that says and at the same time we’re working on our own Transportation Master Plan that will address some of these questions.”
The Commission also floated the idea of extending a free transit pass to everyone, regardless of age, but this was not voted on.
While a concrete deadline hasn’t been set, the free youth passes are slated to appear this fall.