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Comment by Frank Leonard And Dean Fortin: Transit must be part of overall regional planning

Sep 15 2012

This is in response to the Sept. 9 editorial, "No big hurry on transit issue."

The decision by the Capital Regional District board to ask for the authority and powers of the Regional Transit Commission was passed unanimously on June 15, 2011. The board of the CRD takes transportation issues very seriously and is committed to improving regional transit governance as part of its broader objective to improve regional transportation.

The recently released report and recommendations from the B.C. Transit Independent Review Panel outline the pros and cons of the CRD becoming the authority that would approve transit service plans, including routes and capital initiatives, set fares and local taxation.

It is important to point out the unique provincial circumstance where only in Greater Victoria is transit service operated by the B.C. Transit Crown corporation.

The purpose of the request from the CRD board was to enable full representative participation in transit decisions, with the benefit of independent advice from its staff (rather than solely from B.C. Transit as the operator of the transit system). It is our belief that transit planning must be part of overall regional transportation planning. Having transit service and investment decisions approved at the CRD is the only way to ensure integration between regional land use and future decisions on how to improve regional transportation in a sustainable way.

Staff support for the Victoria Transit Commission is currently provided by B.C. Transit. This support is funded by fees charged to the system as part of an agreement between the commission and B.C. Transit. If the CRD was to assume the authority for regional transit, the funding sources would remain the same, with support staff based within the CRD.

In other words, there would be no additional costs associated with the CRD assuming the role of the commission as a result of the change.

Last month, the B.C. Transit independent review panel completed its report, which tackles many issues including governance. It is anticipated that there will be a response by the provincial government to the recommendations of the panel at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention during the week of Sept. 24 in Victoria. We look forward to this dialogue and remain committed to building a sustainable and effective public transit system for the region.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard is chairman of the CRD transportation select committee and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin is vicechairman of that committee.

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