Providing children and teenagers with the ability to ride public transit for free could have long-term benefits in how they perceive and use transit, according to a new proposal.
New Westminster City Councillor Patrick Johnstone wants TransLink to consider the idea of free transit for those who are age 18 and under. Under the current rules, free transit is provided to those who are five and under.
He thinks it could increase ridership and fare revenue as more parents would be encouraged to use transit to get around with their kids, but more importantly it would create more lifetime transit riders as the idea of using transit is normalized during their youth.
“By making it easy for them to accompany their parent on a bus and the SkyTrain, kids are not only demonstrated that public transit works for many trips, but are also taught how to navigate the City using transit, and to be comfortable in transit situations,” he wrote on his blog.
“This means they will more easily transition to being independent transit users, and will more likely see transit as an alternative when they grow older.”
Johnstone believes this change in policy could potentially have “the greatest long-term benefits since the U-Pass program was introduced.”
Toronto offers free rides for anyone 12 and under while London provides free rides for those 10 and under.
In 2016, TransLink collected $522 million in transit fares, which accounts for about 35% of its $1.48-billion annual operations budget.
All fares are scheduled to go up slightly on July 1 to help fund transit improvement and expansion projects.
For instance, concession fares for single-trips will go up by 5¢ to $1.80 for one zone, $2.80 for two-zone, and $3.80 for three zone while concession monthly passes will increase by a dollar to $93.
TransLink is currently in the process of conducting a review of its fare system, which is the first time it has conducted a review of its fare structure in more than three decades.