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Ride on: Victoria youth snap up free bus passes

The popularity of Victoria’s free bus-pass program for youth 18 and under continues to grow as the initiative heads into its second month.
Free bus passes are available at Victoria City Hall for youth who are 18 or younger and live in the city.

The popularity of Victoria’s free bus-pass program for youth 18 and under continues to grow as the initiative heads into its second month.

By New Year’s Eve, a total of 2,164 young people had picked up their passes for January — a slight increase over the 2,124 passes distributed throughout the entire month of December.

And the city says more young people are coming forward all the time as word of the program spreads.

Jane Richmond and her 11-year-old daughter Elsie were among those stopping by city hall on New Year’s Eve to pick up a free pass.

“It just makes a lot of sense to get all the kids on the bus, and the more kids riding the bus, I think the safer the buses are,” Jane said. “She’s got lots of friends on the bus and if the buses are filled with middle school and high school children, it’s just safe.”

Elsie said she appreciates the program, too, but doesn’t think it’s fair that some of her friends at Lansdowne Middle School are unable to take part.

“My friends go to the same school as me, but they live in Saanich, so they can’t get it,” she said.

Victoria became the first municipality in the capital region to begin offering free bus passes for youth last month as a way to attract a new generation of transit riders, reduce traffic congestion and lower greenhouse-gas emissions.

For a family that was previously buying bus passes for two children, it means a savings of about $1,000 a year.

Sarah Duckett, 17, didn’t get a pass last month, but she popped into city hall on New Year’s Eve to pick up one for January.

“It’s winter break, so we have some time off,” she said. “It’s hard to get to city hall during school time. It’s all very busy.”

Duckett takes the bus to and from Esquimalt High and she said that getting a free pass means her family will have extra money for other household expenses. She also appreciates the program’s environmental benefits.

“Car-pooling, busing, biking, it’s all very good for the environment,” she said.

Her mother, Laura Duckett, agreed. “It’s a great idea,” she said. “I just wish it was a little easier to get the pass. That’s the only difficult thing.”

By next September, the city hopes to have a program in place where young people will be able to use their student identification cards as bus passes, the way college and university students do.

But until then, youth or their parents and guardians will have to visit city hall each month and supply proof of age and residency in Victoria in order to obtain their passes.

Victoria plans to spend $972,000 a year on passes for an estimated 7,200 youth in the city — whether or not they take advantage of the program. City council will cover part of the cost with revenue from Sunday parking fees that took effect in May and are expected to bring in about $500,000 to $600,000 a year.

The program is only available to young people who are residents of the city of Victoria. Details on how to obtain a pass and the documentation required are available on the city’s website at

The city says it will accept a B.C. Health Services card, a B.C. Identification card or a B.C. driver’s licence — each with current address — to prove age and residency. If a youth doesn’t have one of the documents with a Victoria address, the website provides a list of other documents that will be accepted.

Each monthly pass will permit unlimited rides on B.C. transit buses and handyDART services for registered handyDART customers. Replacements will not be provided for lost or stolen cards.

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