Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Student reps get position on Victoria Transit Commission

March 4, 2015 by Jason Schreurs, assistant editor

Student reps at Camosun and UVic say a recent decision to instate a student position on the Victoria Transit Commission will be an important step to address ongoing issues with transit.

Rachael Grant, external executive of the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS), and Greg Atkinson, director of external relations for the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS), will share the newly appointed position, which won’t have voting power but will still have significant influence, according to Victoria Transit Commission chair Susan Brice.

“The expectation is that down the road they would be a voting member, but we are a very consensus-building group, so I would anticipate that a student rep who has valid points to make would be regarded by other people on the commission as though they had a vote,” explains Brice, also a Saanich councillor. “There may be times when there could be issues that are more divided, in which case the students would be able to use their powers of persuasion and their comments to influence the commission members.”

The Victoria Transit Commission recently instated a position for student groups to address issues (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

 

Grant and Atkinson both say they are “thrilled” at the commission’s decision to instate a student position, even if it is a non-voting role for now. Grant says a motion has already been made to investigate turning the position into a voting one, and Brice confirms that commission staff is already looking into how to change the provincial legislation to eventually give the students voting power.

“We were incredibly excited about this huge win for students in the realm of transit,” says Grant. “This is above and beyond what we asked for, and we’re very enthusiastic about sitting at that table.”

Atkinson says when the decision was made at a Victoria Transit Commission meeting he and Grant could hardly contain their excitement.

“I was sitting beside Rachael and we both did a little fist-bump,” laughs Atkinson. “We’re really excited about it.”

It was student reps who originally approached the commission about getting more involved, and Brice says the commission was happy to work more closely with student reps on transit issues, since students are the largest segment of transit ridership in the Greater Victoria region.

Camosun and UVic students contribute over $5 million annually to their mandatory Universal Bus Pass program, and the CCSS and UVSS (along with Unifor 333, the union of Greater Victoria bus drivers) founded the Make Transit Work campaign.

Brice says working with students on transit issues has been very beneficial to transit services as a whole.

“It’s been very interesting and rewarding working with students,” she says. “I have found over the years that the students are very good at carrying the message forward on behalf of the general student body. They are very knowledgeable about the transit system as it relates to their needs and as it interacts with their school schedules.”

The student reps will now sit at the table with mayors and councillors and help shape the future of transit services in the area. With access to the commission’s meeting agendas, reports, and budgets, the reps will be able to “bring our issues with transit to the forefront and make sure students are being consulted,” says Atkinson.

Grant and Atkinson say they will work together in the position to ensure that transit works on issues such as route accessibility, bus pass-bys, and sustainability, among others that affect students.

“It’s something very exciting for the mayors and councillors that supported us as well,” says Atkinson. “They see this as a way of getting new ideas and possible solutions for transit issues they’ve been identifying for years, so we’re providing a fresh perspective for them.”

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