The municipalities of Victoria and Whistler, both served by BC Transit, are enacting policies of providing a free transit pass to anyone between the ages of 12 and 18 starting over the coming weeks and months.
Such policies are intended to encourage more young people to adopt transit as their mode of transportation early on in their lives, as they will be more likely to continue using transit when they transition into adulthood.
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For the City of Victoria, this follows a June decision by the Victoria Regional Transit Commission to provide free transit passes to youth who have a registered residence within the city limits.
According to updated policy reports this week, approximately 7,200 youth within the municipality are eligible for the youth bus pass program.
Victoria’s program will begin December 1, 2019, and every youth will be required to go to city hall each month through August 2020 to provide a proof of address and pick up their passes.
Regardless of whether or not the youth use the pass, each pass will cost the municipality $11.25 per month or $135 per year, totalling a bulk purchase of $972,000 annually, with much of this coming from the city’s parking revenues.
A more permanent youth U-Pass system for this program could be put in place by September 2020, with youth using their student identification cards as free bus passes, similar to the existing system for post-secondary students.
Transit fares in Victoria for youth are currently $2.50 for a single boarding cash fare and $45 for a monthly pass.
Over at Whistler, the resort municipality will launch a pilot project providing all secondary students with free bus passes on BC Transit’s Whistler Transit System. The program is slated to begin in early 2020.
Funding for Whistler’s program will come from an increase to the rates for monthly parking passes in Day Lots 1, 2, and 3 — from $50 per month to $60 per month.
For several years, a form of free public transit has also been provided in Whistler during the weekends of the peak summer tourist season as a traffic mitigation measure.
TransLink has been considering the feasibility of offering free transit as well to youth in Metro Vancouver between the ages of five and 18. While the public transit authority supports free transit for youth, it says an annual provincial operating subsidiary would be required to fill an annual revenue hole of between $40 million and $50 million.