CRD hits brakes on regional transportation service

The Capital Regional District will wait for a provincial consultant’s report on local governance before taking any more steps toward creating a regional transportation service.

“I think that I’m confident that there is some strong support throughout the region for a regional transportation service — not by any means without some issues in some areas,” said Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, who chairs the CRD select committee on transportation.

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Last summer, the province awarded a $95,000 contract to Circle Square Solutions — a firm headed by former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott — and Urban Systems to examine integrating municipal services and governance in Greater Victoria.

CRD directors on Wednesday supported Brice’s suggestion that any further action on a proposed regional transportation service be held in abeyance until that report on governance is released, probably in January.

“I am hoping, expecting, that through their work, they will have determined that regional transportation planning and service would be a valuable addition to our services,” Brice said.

Creating a new regional service at the CRD is not an easy process, requiring approval from participating bodies for funding.

Brice and CRD staff have for the past two months been meeting with municipal councils trying to get their support. Many have jumped on board, but at least three municipalities — Colwood, Langford and Sooke — have not.

If it wanted to move ahead with the service, the CRD could still seek support through referendum or through a counter-petition process.

Brice said the new service is “still a work in progress and we’re working toward some kind of unanimous buy-in.”

“My goal is still to have everyone around this table see the value of a regional transportation service. If we don’t come to that position, we’ll have to then make some other decisions about whether we want to embark on any of these other opportunities,” Brice said.

View Royal Mayor David Screech said transportation is probably one of the most important issues facing the region as a whole, “and I don’t think there’s any doubt that the residents and the electorate out there expect us to make progress on it.”

He said he hopes the issue comes back to the CRD board soon to decide whether to go to referendum or an alternative process.

“I think it’s that important. We can’t afford to just let this now disappear and not come back to this table because there has been some dissent from municipalities. I think we need to sort it out and move forward,” Screech said.

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said while her residents agree there are regional transportation issues, “there is clear concern as well around governance and how it would best be looked at in the hands of the CRD.”

“I think it would be safe to say that Colwood still continues to want to be part of a solution and that we want to see some tangible results there that we can actually have some expectation around,” Hamilton said.

The new service initially would consolidate existing CRD transportation planning and regional trails. Ultimately, efforts could be made to bring public transit under the jurisdiction of the CRD, but that would require legislative change.

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