(Image / BC Transit Twitter)

Students under the age of 18 who attend public school and live in the City of Victoria will be receiving free BC Transit passes this fall, regardless of which school they attend.

At a Victoria Regional Transit Commission meeting on Tuesday, the City of Victoria proposed to fund free youth passes for students – a motion that was approved unanimously by Transit Commission board members.

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Over 6,300 children aged 6 – 18 years old will receive these passes by October-November 2019, at a cost of $857,250 per year to the City.

This amount is made available from the funds generated by the elimination of free Sunday street parking in the city’s downtown core.

While this decision does not affect the Transit Commission’s budget, a proposition to fund youth passes for the entire CRD would.

“We asked staff what it would cost if the commission was in a position to fund youth passes for children 18 and under across the region,” said Susan Brice, Chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.

“Staff will bring that back to us at another meeting with some dollars attached to it. That won’t be held until the fall. Whether or not any decisions made at that time remains to be seen.”

Sooner than expected

City staff hope to coordinate with the school district in order to made these passes available to students in September, but it may take until November to complete the rollout.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps told Victoria Buzz that she is extremely pleased with the speed at which the Commission and staff are moving, as the original implementation of the free youth bus pass program was not expected to be carried out until 2020.

“The whole point of why we’re doing this is that by giving kids free transit, we’re making them lifelong transit riders and reducing reliance on cars,” said Helps.

“What I’ve heard from kids is that it’s giving them the freedom to move around the city, and what I’ve heard from parents is ‘thank you for funding this so it doesn’t have to come out of my already tight budget’.”

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