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West Shore Chamber of Commerce opposes possible CRD transit takeover

Aug 17 2012

West Shore communities deserve a greater say in regional transit services, says the area's Chamber of Commerce, which is opposing the Capital Regional District's bid to take over Greater Victoria's transit system.

Officials from the West Shore Chamber of Commerce responded Thursday to a report from an independent transit review panel that outlined the pros and cons of several options for improving on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

One of those considers transferring transit governance to the CRD - an option endorsed unanimously in May by the district's board of directors, but not by the Chamber.

"The CRD is structurally flawed as an overall body," said Chamber chief executive officer Dan Spinner.

"Victoria and Saanich have a majority of the voting control, and we think that's the past deciding the future."

Saanich has five directors on the CRD board and Victoria has four. The West Shore has seven representatives including Sooke and the Juan de Fuca electoral area.

Spinner said any improvement to the transit commission should include more representation from West Shore communities, where transit infrastructure is needed to address growing traffic congestion.

The commission currently has just one representative for the entire West Shore, two from Victoria, two from Saanich, one from either Oak Bay or Esquimalt, and one representing Sidney, North Saanich or Central Saanich.

"It's time to correct the ludicrous imbalance of having one West Shore representative only on the regional transit commission," Spinner said.

The review panel's report recognized the Chamber's concerns. It said the current commission model does not match up with ongoing population growth, which has been largely in the seven West Shore municipalities.

Municipal politicians from both Colwood and Langford said that they need more of a say on the commission.

"We certainly agree there needs to be much stronger representation from the West Shore, because we know that's where a lot of the traffic movement goes," said Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington.

Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell agreed with the Chamber on representation, but said the CRD - which includes a representative from every community - would provide a better option than the current model.

Lekstrom is to announce his plans for the Victoria Regional Transit Commission in late September.

Several CRD directors said Thursday that they would move ahead in their bid to take over Greater Victoria's transit system.

A few directors have expressed doubts about the changes, but Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said that unless someone asked for a new vote, he would continue to push for the CRD takeover.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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