North Cowichan OKs new transit funding

Planned improvements to the region’s public transit service require more funding support from the local governments for the areas it serves.

Planned improvements to the region’s public transit service require more funding support from the local governments for the areas it serves.

And the Municipality of North Cowichan decided to answer that call at the regular meeting of council on Sept. 21.

Jim Wakeham, manager of the facilities and transit management division at the Cowichan Valley Regional District that runs the region’s transit service, told council that an additional $893,000 in the transit budget may be required to meet the CVRD’s goals over the next three years.

They include the construction of a new $15-million transit operations and maintenance facility, which is being paid for mostly by senior levels of government, and replacing aging buses.

Wakeham asked council to amend North Cowichan’s transit-service bylaw to increase the municipality’s tax-requisition limit by as much as 35 per cent, but couldn’t say how much more, if any, North Cowichan would be expected to contribute in the coming years.

The CVRD has already received a positive response to the proposal to increase tax-requisition limits for transit by the other three municipalities the local transit system services, and required the assent of North Cowichan, the largest one, before it’s financial plan can proceed.

“The tax-requisition limits are at their ceilings now, and increasing them will allow the CVRD to raise its tax-requisition limit to $3,450,000, an increase of $893,361, to help fund a number of initiatives over the next few years,” Wakeham said.

Wakeham said the increase doesn’t necessarily mean that property taxes will rise accordingly, and that a lot will depend on the financial decisions that are made in the coming years.

“It’s like a ‘lite’ kind of credit in that in the future, some of our strategies may get approved and not some others,” he said. “A lot has yet to be determined over the next two to four years.”

Coun. Joyce Behnsen pointed out that she sees many empty buses on their routes and asked Wakeham what’s being done to increase ridership.

Wakeham said the CVRD is constantly reviewing its routes and ridership, listens to feedback from the public and consults with BC Transit on best strategies to make its transit service the best it can be.

Council decided to give the green light to the request.