Victoria students mobilize to take stand on bus passes

High-school students are hoping a real-life lesson in civics will be the key to getting the B.C. Transit youth pass reinstated.

The cancellation of the $35-a-month youth pass, which could be bought for six or 12 months at a time, was among a number of changes announced by B.C. Transit in March. The cost for students is now $45 a month.

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Student representatives from high schools in the Greater Victoria school district plan to take a stand at the Victoria Regional Transit Commission’s June 21 meeting, said Victoria High School’s Solomon Lindsay, who is 17 and in Grade 12. He is among eight students — one from each district high school — on an advisory council led by superintendent Piet Langstraat.

Langstraat said he and the Greater Victoria school board support the students’ grassroots campaign. Trustees also voted to have chairwoman Edith Loring-Kuhanga work with her counterparts in the Sooke and Saanich districts to support the cause.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Langstraat, who will join the students at the meeting. “On this particular issue, I think they’re the ones directly affected, and so [it’s good] for them to step up and organize and actually arrange to go down and speak with B.C. Transit and say: ‘Here are all of our concerns.’ ”

Lindsay, who is also part of the Victoria Youth Council, said he is happy to be part of an “advocacy” effort on behalf of students. He said a petition has been circulating at Vic High and there is talk of making a video so that as many students as possible can say their piece to B.C. Transit.

Even though the transit commission meeting comes during the high-school exam period, he said he expects a good turnout of students.

Lindsay said he got involved after talking to a fellow student Lea Lafuente, who has been intent on taking action.

Lafuente, a 16-year-old in Grade 10, was not impressed when she heard the pass was being chopped.

“I thought that was really dumb, to put it nicely,” she said. “I thought it was inconsiderate for the youth.”

One advantage of the pass was that it provided young people with picture identification, Lafuente said.

Lindsay said the loss of the pass affects many people.

“It just means that it’s a lot more difficult for students to use transit, not necessarily because of the price, but just because when you lose the youth pass, you can just get it replaced quite easily.

“It has your picture on it so it makes it a lot easier in that respect.”

There is also concern about the cancellation of the bus-transfer system, Lindsay said.

The issue has also inspired activity at other schools, such as Reynolds Secondary, where concerned students gathered 66 letters of opposition and delivered them to the B.C. Transit office.

Reynolds Grade 12 student Rebecca Hansen, 17, said the letter-writing campaign was organized through ActionNow, a student-led activist group at the school.

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice, chairwoman of the transit commission, said she looks forward to hearing from students at the upcoming meeting.

“We encourage folks to come down,” she said.

jwbell@timecolonist.com

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