A coalition between the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS), Camosun College Student Society (CCSS), and Unifor 333 has launched a series of videos for its Make Transit Work campaign. The campaign aims to bring awareness of the problems affecting the current regional transit system—issues which led to an estimated 16 000 pass-ups in the month of September 2012, according to the UVSS.
The short videos feature statements by transit riders, bus drivers, and political players. The problems, according to the campaign, stem from several sources, the least of which is the number of transit vehicles.
“We welcome any increase in service, but there needs to be more that’s done to try and alleviate these problems,” says Ben Williams, president of Unifor 333, the union to which B.C. Transit workers belong.
The videos identify inefficient planning as the main issue. Currently ,transit is funded by the provincial government’s transit board, but organized by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission, made up largely of local politicians who are reluctant to suggest the increases in tax that are necessary for receiving all of the provincial funding, as the funding is conditional on being matched at the municipal level.
But the money is not the main problem. Make Transit Work says the allocation of resources is inefficient, largely because the people running the system are not on the front lines.
“Bus drivers should have a seat at the table, so that their insights can be incorporated into planning and governance,” says the campaign’s website.
An issue faced by drivers is that transit vehicles are given no priority on the road. “One of the biggest challenges we have is [that] our buses are treated just like other vehicles on the road, so when there’s congestion, we’re caught in [it],” says B.C. Transit driver Jim Pullan, in one of the campaign videos.
The solution of dedicated bus lanes is complicated in that it would require the co-operation of the Transit Commission, the B.C. Transit board, the Ministry of Transportation, and any municipality through which the roads pass. Make Transit Work says that there needs to be a central governing body in charge of transportation infrastructure as well as transit.
The campaign videos wrap up by listing contact information of the local political figures that are part of the Commission. Make Transit Work considers that body to be the one that has the ability to implement the necessary reforms, saying that the Commission “has access to the levels of power that students, community riders, and bus drivers don’t.”
The videos can be found at the campaign’s website, maketransitwork.com, along with more information and the contact information for the local Commission members.