Commission says unchanged gas tax could be bad for transit users
The province is facing criticism for refusing to raise the Capital Region’s gas tax in Tuesday's budget.
The Victoria Regional Transit Commission says it was banking on a boost to funding through a regional gas tax increase, but since that never came, transit riders may suffer.
“We were very disappointed,” said VRTC Chair Susan Brice. “All of the expansion will have to go on hold. Simply even providing the exact same number of hours would be a reduction in service.”
Right now, gas tax in Greater Victoria sits at three-and-a-half cents per litre, and raises $11.7-million a year.
The commission was asking for that to be hiked by two cents to fund 12,000 more service hours, and to buy 10 new buses.
“The transit system in Greater Victoria is underfunded and has not seen any significant growth or expansion in years,” said Ben Williams, president of Unifor local 333 bus drivers’ union.
Williams says resources are already stretched thin and with a growing population and increased traffic congestion, things are only going to get worse.
But not everyone is on board with a tax hike.
John Treleaven represents a group called Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria and says the region should be investing in long-term solutions like Light Rail Transit.
“Any taxpayer’s going to be a bit concerned about a 57 per cent increase in anything,” said Treleaven. “There is an absence of transportation planning in the CRD.”
The province says it’s increased funding to BC Transit and isn’t convinced the public is sold on a tax hike, especially before an election.
“We think the next three months, with a big date coming in May, this is a perfect opportunity to hear from the citizens to put it back out there into the region,” said transportation minister Todd Stone. “Let’s see how the people of Greater Victoria actually feel about a potential increase in our fuel tax.”
The transit commission will meet next week to decide if service will be cut.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Louise Hartland