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CRD pushes for Transit takeover

May 24 2012

Municipal politicians say they can improve public transit in Greater Victoria and create more accountability for taxpayers if the Capital Regional District takes over the service.

CRD directors on Wednesday aired their frustrations about transit operations during a presentation to the government-appointed review panel mandated to scrutinize B.C. Transit provincewide.

The three-member panel is also specifically focusing on the governance model for the Victoria Regional Transit Commission and will make recommendations for improvements in August.

A CRD-controlled transit would ensure all 13 municipalities have a say in where taxpayers' money is spent and it would improve services in those communities, the directors said during their two-hour afternoon pitch in the CRD boardroom.

Under the current model, seven representatives from just five of the 13 municipalities sit on the transit commission.

"The CRD can give a micro-focus to the issues in our communities," said Sidney Mayor Larry Cross.

From improving services in each community to linking planning with regional growth strategies, CRD directors say their staff can better manage transit operations.

B.C. Transit was again criticized for its lack of consultation with the commission before making significant capital expenditures and service changes - a message the panel has heard in its meetings with other municipalities in the province.

"B.C. Transit is a good operator - but are they accountable? No, they're not," said Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne. "Each municipality needs representation. You have to have oversight and accountability when it comes to capital expenses, operating expenses and revenue."

Several directors are cautious about the CRD takeover, but everyone recognizes the need for increased representation. The transit commission has two council members from Victoria, two from Saanich, one from either Oak Bay or Esquimalt, one representing Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich, and another representing the entire West Shore.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins expressed frustration about having an Oak Bay Mayor represent her community on the commission for six years.

"It's absolutely silly," she said. "Oak Bay has very different transportation issues and is going in a very different direction than Esquimalt."

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell echoed Desjardins, saying the seven communities - including the Juan de Fuca electoral area - in the rapidly growing West Shore deserve more service and representation.

A CRD model would be more accountable because directors are elected to office in their respective communities, compared to the provincial government appointments on the commission, said Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard.

The review panel has not completed its first round of consultation and will make public responses from communities in the coming weeks.

REGIONAL TRANSIT COSTS

? Victoria - $7.4 million

? Saanich - $6.7 million

? Langford - $2.2 million

? Oak Bay - $1.3 million

? Central Saanich - $1.2 million

? North Saanich - $1.0 million

? Sidney - $970,000

? Colwood - $823,000

? Esquimalt - $755,000

? Sooke - $555,000

? View Royal - $548,000

? Metchosin - $235,000

? Highlands - $136,000

? Total: $25.3 million

- Source: B.C. Transit

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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