(Image / BC Transit Twitter)

Victoria staff have recommended that council seek a discounted bus pass from BC Transit rate in order to afford to pay for free youth passes.

In June 2019, a Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) vote confirmed that students under the age of 18 living in Victoria will be receiving free BC Transit passes in fall 2019, regardless of which school they attend.

See also: Victoria students under 18 years old will be getting free BC Transit passes this fall

At the time, over 6,300 children aged 6 – 18 years old were expected to receive these passes no later than November 30th, 2019 at a cost of $857,250 per year to the City.

These funds were made available by getting rid of free Sunday street parking in the downtown core and reallocating the revenue to the youth bus pass program.

Affordable options

A recent report by Director of Engineering and Public Works, Fraser Work, states that BC Transit “does not currently offer a bus pass that the City could easily and affordably administer for city youth riders”.

Staff finds that the current rate of $45/month for youth passes is unsustainable for the City to support in the long term and recommends that the VRTC negotiate the fare to less than $11.50/month.

This amount is equivalent to transit fare paid by UVic and Camosun students who opt in to the UPass program set at a rate of $138/year.

See also: BC Transit issues apology for increases in weekday service cancellations

“It is difficult to forecast ridership of a free transit pass program and estimate the subsequent funds needed to support this emerging youth pass program,” says the staff report.

“Having ridership data will help determine the actual costs to BC Transit, and help the City understand youth demand, benefits and other program management/ administration needs.”

For now, they recommend combining BC Transit’s renewable monthly pass option with the U-Pass’s lowered rates in order to come up with a new universal youth pass that can then be funded by the City.