City of Victoria considers free public transit for children

Victoria city council is considering making public transportation free to children under the age of 19.

Program costs could be covered by Sunday parking fees, Victoria mayor says

The current cost of a children's monthly transit pass for Victoria is $45. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Victoria city council is considering a plan to make public transportation free for children.

The notion is part of the city's budget conversations for 2019, according to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. 

The current cost of a children's monthly transit pass for the city is $45, while a U-Pass for UVic and Camosun College students is around $20 per month. 

Helps says the city, along with the Victoria school district, could work out a deal with B.C. Transit to get under-19s a free pass. 

She estimates the costs of the program would be in the neighbourhood of $1 million, and could be covered by introducing parking fees on downtown Victoria streets, which are currently free on Sundays. 

The mayor says the idea is inspired by Kingston, Ont., which implemented a similar program. 

Street parking targeted

The mayor says she would like to see the new fees applied to street parking only. Victoria currently allows free parking in parkades, surface lots and on streets on Sundays. 

"Because parking is free on the streets on Sunday, people, particularly employees — but not exclusively — just park all day and don't leave. So, it's actually quite hard to find street parking downtown on Sundays," Helps said.

She said the measure would not only save families $540 a year in transit fees per child, but would give children and parents more freedom, and help the environment.  

According to Victoria's 2019 draft financial plan, the city operates nearly 2,000 street parking spaces downtown, and generates $8.8 million per year in fees from street and surface lots.

Council is currently in preliminary deliberations concerning the plan, but the 2019 draft budget and four-year strategic plan is expected to be ready for public input by Dec. 14.

Helps says the council will make a final decision in late January or early February. 

With files from CBC's On The Island