As of April 1, bus riders in Greater Victoria who need to take more than one bus to get to their destination will no longer receive a transfer.
Instead, they will have the option of buying an all-day pass for the price of two fares, doubling the cost of a one-way two-bus trip.
Members of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission made the decision Tuesday at a meeting where they also agreed to hand free, year-long bus passes to refugees landing in Greater Victoria.
The commission had considered raising cash fares from the current $2.50 to $3, among other options. But in the end, they opted to not to raise fares for the next three years, but will take steps to reduce costs, including ending the practice where bus drivers hand passengers a transfer to use on another bus route.
The $5 all-day bus pass allows unlimited rides, on all routes, for an entire day. Passengers will be able to purchase the passes directly from drivers.
Riders will also be able to pay for the all-day pass with two bus tickets, worth $2.25 each for a total cost of $4.50. Tickets are available in sheets of 10 at stores around the region.
After the meeting, commission chairwoman Susan Brice said representatives from the bus drivers’ union told commissioners that transfers were a persistent source of disagreement, conflict and delay.
“We heard a strong presentation from the transit operators that transfers can cause a lot of conflict and potential fraud,” said Brice. “So we saw this as an improvement.”
Commissioners also agreed to end multi-month youth passes, good for unlimited fares for six to 12 months.
Brice said the youth passes, which included photographs and required going to B.C. Transit offices, were too expensive to administer.
The motion to give newly arrived refugees free bus passes for the first year of their settlement was introduced by transit commissioner Kenya Rogers, a delegate from the University of Victoria Students Society.
The 21-year-old political science major said for many people starting a new life in Greater Victoria, bus travel is not only affordable, it’s a way to learn about the city.
“We can help people adjust to this city,” said Rogers at the meeting. “Let’s try and make them feel welcome.”
After a few moments of debate, other transit commissioners agreed and voted to pass the motion.
Brice called the passes an “excellent idea.”
“Every member of the commission in their various roles has had the refugee issue raised,” she said. “And as a community, we are all working together.”
She said B.C. Transit will report back at the next commission meeting in February with recommendations to fund any shortfalls in upcoming budgets.