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B.C. Greens' call for free bus passes amid sky-high gas prices a no go

The B.C. government says it has no plans to make public transit free over the summer in response to record-high gas prices, as the B.C. Greens have suggested, says the province’s environment minister.
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Environment Minister George Heyman says the province, with the federal government, has given $820 million to B.C. Transit and TransLink to keep fares down and ensure services are available, and ridership is up to close to pre-pandemic levels as a result. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The B.C. government says it has no plans to make public transit free over the summer in response to record-high gas prices, as the B.C. Greens have suggested, says the province’s environment minister.

George Heyman, in a media scrum at the B.C. legislature on Tuesday, said the province has put “substantial funding” over the last year and a half into keeping fares down for transit users and ensuring services are in place.

“So we have no plans at the moment to change the practice but we have been giving huge support to ensure that those services are maintained.”

As gas prices hit an all-time high this week — $2.329 a litre in Greater Victoria on Monday — and costs of living continue to increase, the B.C. Greens called on the province Monday to make public transit free for the next four months.

“British Columbians need immediate relief from the high costs of living,” said Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Greens. “Free transit for the summer is a concrete way to reduce expenses.”

A monthly transit pass costs $85 to $181, meaning a summer reprieve on transit fares could save users $724 over the next four months, said the Greens.

Premier John Horgan has suggested transit as one alternative for people trying to cope with soaring gas prices.

Solicitor General Mike ­Farnworth last week blamed rising gas prices on factors outside of ­British Columbia, including Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has drawn sanctions on Russia from the international community.

Heyman said the province, with the federal government, has given $820 million to B.C. Transit and TransLink to keep fares down and ensure services are available, and ridership is up to close to pre-pandemic levels as a result.

The B.C. Greens have noted an efficient transit network is not an option for many in the province, including those in rural areas.

Heyman said the province is committed to helping to expand public transit options throughout B.C.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com