Those in West Vancouver feeling the pinch when it comes to personal transit may soon be able to commute via e-bike, as the local council has voted to continue forward with an incentive plan for residents with lower incomes.
The pilot program will use an estimated budget of $135,000 to offer two tiers of incentives, either $500 or $1500, based on household income. Designed to improve mobility for lower income residents and reduce congestion in the area, it would follow the pilot already penned for North Vancouver and will be much like previous incentive programs implemented in the District of Saanich, with e-bikes, e-tricycles and front-drive wheelchair attachments all being available.
In a virtual meeting on Sept. 26, Jenn Moller, Director of Engineering & Transportation Services, fielded questions from the council on what the roll-out will look like.
Pushing for the go-ahead, Moller touched on how they are still awaiting data from the North Vancouver roll-out, which can be expected early next year, but the Saanich program has been "quite successful" and has since been extended.
The program will initially run on a first-come, first-served basis, as it is "the most straightforward way" to get things started, she said.
Coun. Marcus Wong asked whether those categories will be broken up into sub-categories – to cater to those at the lower end of the bracket who could have different financial needs to those at the higher end, for example – and Moller said it will be considered, but implementing it will be difficult.
"If they're in the bracket, they're in the bracket," she said.
Despite the majority being in support of the program, council staff had questioned whether the implementation of it was too soon. Coun. Bill Soprovich asked why the council would spend the $135,000 on the program, when they haven't yet "done any work on the infrastructure needs for bicycles and providing safety."
Coun. Sharon Thompson later echoed the sentiment, arguing that the implementation of the bikes was interesting but "ahead of it's time," and she would first like to hear how well previous programs, like the one in North Vancouver, have been adapted into the community before the subsidized roll-out begins.
She said the $135,000 budget is "quite the chunk," especially given only $50,000 will be put towards community groups.
"I'd rather the money go to food security, or a system that really makes a difference," she said.
Nevertheless Thompson's vote against the policy was outnumbered five to one, with Wong, Soprovich, Coun. Craig Cameron, Coun. Nora Gambioli and Mayor Mary-Ann Booth voting for the motion to be passed.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.