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CRD vows to continue transit push

Aug 19 2012

Capital Regional District directors remain steadfast in their push to take over Greater Victoria transit services, despite criticism that the organization lacks sufficient representation for the region.

The West Shore Chamber of Commerce slammed the CRD plan to replace the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, saying the board's structure doesn't give West Shore communities enough of a voice.

CRD directors, however, said they would move ahead with a push to absorb transit services and integrate them with regional planning.

"If you want to have a representative commission, including all contributing municipalities and with the balance of large versus small communities, you end up with a commission that looks like the CRD board," said CRD chairman Geoff Young.

The core municipalities of Victoria and Saanich have four and five representatives, respectively.

The West Shore, including Sooke and the Juan de Fuca electoral area, has seven representatives - one from each municipality.

Proponents of the CRD takeover - which was included in a report from an independent transit review panel - say combining transit with other regional transportation and land-use planning would make for a more comprehensive and efficient system.

"A lot of those issues are difficult to separate from each other," said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. "To have separate government structures for each issue, often results in silo decision-making."

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt supports the CRD model as well, basing his opinion largely on consultations with politicians and senior staff in Vancouver.

"It has so many benefits in terms of integrating transportation planning, land-use planning as well as the political accountability component," he said.

"When it comes to fairness between the municipalities, the CRD already has a model for representation on the basis of population."

B.C. Transportation Minister Lekstrom will respond to the panel's report in September.

Under the CRD proposal, transit select committee members would set fares, service levels, budgets and property taxes just as the commission does now. B.C. Transit would make recommendations to the new committee.

CRD general manager of planning Bob Lapham said the difference would be that CRD planners would be involved in those meetings to offer advice on how to best align transit with regional land-use goals.

"If B.C. Transit continued on as the operator, we might have them develop recommendations on things like routes and fare structures and then provide information to the CRD," he said. "Our staff would review it and make recommendations to the board."

This type of agreement would likely result in some duplication of services because B.C. Transit would keep its staff, said Transit president and CEO Manuel Achadinha.

"I think there would be some inefficiencies that we would have to look at," he said, adding, "We will work with whatever system the minister chooses."

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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