Province orders review of BC Transit

The B.C. government is preparing an outside review the operation of BC Transit, after local elections.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is preparing an outside review the operation of BC Transit, once the dust settles from this month’s municipal elections.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom announced the review at the B.C. legislature Wednesday, after hearing complaints from municipalities about the way the provincial agency decides to buy property or equipment that has an unexpected impact on local government budgets.

“There were concerns raised about dialogue,” Lekstrom said. “I think we can do a better job with BC Transit, whether it’s on the capital planning side and how our service is delivered.”

Lekstrom vowed to work with municipal leaders on the terms of the review, once local elections are completed Nov. 19 and new councils begin their three-year terms.

BC Transit operates bus services in communities outside Metro Vancouver, with financing from a province-wide gasoline tax. It receives funding from 58 local governments, and had a budget of $249 million last year.

Current legislation has the province paying 47 per cent of costs for regional transit systems, with the rest raised by local governments. The local share is about half from fare and advertising revenue, and the rest from property tax. The province funds two thirds of handyDART transit services for the disabled.

Greater Victoria municipalities have proposed a regional transit agency similar to Translink, which collects its own fuel taxes and manages the system through a mayors’ council. Translink is currently considering an additional two cents a litre gasoline tax to fund extension of the SkyTrain system from Burnaby to Coquitlam.

Lekstrom said the review won’t deal directly with issues such as different fuel tax rates in different regions. It will consider proposals for greater regional authority over the expansion and operation of transit services.