Free public transit for kids in BC will begin in September 2021

Apr 20 2021, 3:24 pm

Starting in September 2021, coinciding with the start of the new school year, all children aged 12 and under across British Columbia will have access to free public transit.

The provincial government is allocating $26 million towards this program in the 2021 budget announced today, which includes previously confirmed joint emergency operating funding provided to public transit authorities.

According to the budget, the first phase of the initiative will be launched for children in this age group on all TransLink and BC Transit services, including buses, SkyTrain, SeaBus, West Coast Express, and HandyDART.

Currently, both TransLink and BC Transit offer free transit fares to kids under five years old.

This program is expected to improve affordability for families by reducing the cost of public transit. For families with youth using TransLink’s monthly pass, the program will save up to $672 per child annually.

It is anticipated about 340,000 children across the province will have access to free transit later this year. Over the short- and long-term, it will also help rebuild transit ridership.

This announcement fulfills one of the BC NDP’s campaign pledges from the Fall 2020 election that committed to delivering free transit for youth aged 12 and under.

Over the years, a number of municipal governments across BC have approved motions asking the provincial government and their local public transit authority to implement free transit for youth.

In 2019, TransLink said free transit or further subsidies for any group would only be possible with provincial funding. At the time, it was estimated that free transit for youth ages five to 18 would result in an annual revenue hole of between $40 million and $50 million.

Under the 2020-2021 emergency operating funding agreement, TransLink, BC Transit, and BC Ferries are required to cap annual fare increases through 2024. As a result, the TransLink fare increase set to begin on July 1, 2021 will be set at 2.3% — considerably lower than the 4.1% increase originally planned for 2021. This also follows the cancellation of the 4.6% increase for 2020 due to the pandemic.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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