Sunday parking fees cover free transit service for Victoria students

VICTORIA — Students in British Columbia's capital city can ride the bus for free next school year after the region's transit commission approved a Victoria council plan to fund transit passes with parking revenues.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission unanimously approved the plan to provide free bus passes to students who live in the city and are 18 years old or under.

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Commission chairwoman Susan Brice said Wednesday the city will use parking revenues to pay the estimated $857,000 annually for bus passes for about 6,350 students who are expected to be eligible. She said the city recently started charging downtown parking fees on Sundays and those revenues will fund the bus passes.

"The Victoria city council approached the commission and asked to have a youth pass program, which they would fund," said Brice.

She said the transit commission is studying the costs associated with providing free bus passes on a region-wide basis, but it isn't making any promises for students who live in other Victoria-area communities.

Brice said she didn't want to "give an impression to the public that this is kind of a first step and then, 'Boom,' it'll be the whole of Greater Victoria because, obviously, from the commission's point of view that would be a big budget decision."

She said Victoria council members told the commission the free bus pass initiative is part of the city's plan to fight climate change by reducing harmful carbon emissions.

"The reality is that when anything, which has a greater community good, can be paid for with a source that is not direct taxpayer funded, I think that's creative," Brice said.

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