On Tuesday, Vancouver City Council approved a pilot program that will provide reduced TransLink public transit fares to low-income individuals.
The program, funded by a $50,000 grant from the Union of British Columbia municipalities, establishes an affordable single-zone monthly transit pass program for between 50 and 100 participants.
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According to a city staff report, free or subsidized transit passes will offered to individuals experiencing priority, particularly Indigenous and “racialized” residents — including children, youth and families, and people living in the city’s temporary modular housing buildings.
The municipal government will work with Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Committee, Simon Fraser University, TransLink, and other relevant entities and partners to design the pilot program. It will use the SFU Hotel Employees transit pilot, Mobi bike share access pilot, and City of Victoria transit program as its foundation of understanding.
City staff assert transit fares are a barrier for low-income individuals, and prevents them from “taking action to lift themselves out of poverty.
“Transportation is also inextricably linked to better health outcomes and social well-being through access to work, health, medical services, education, healthy food, recreation, and childcare. For example, improved attendance at school and increased working hours are directly linked to transportation access,” reads the report.
Findings from the program will be used to make recommendations for a reduced or free transit program in Vancouver. The small sample size is intended to be the first phase of a larger study that can span several municipalities in the future.
After project development this fall, transit passes will be distributed in early 2021, with analysis occurring over the spring. A final report will be submitted to the UBCM in late Summer 2021.
In 2019, TransLink stated reduced or free fares for youth and low-income residents depends on operating funding from the provincial government to ensure service levels and capital plans are not impacted.
Free transit for youth ages five to 18 would result in an annual TransLink revenue hole of between $40 million and $50 million, while free transit for low-income residents would lead to further losses of between $25 million and $40 million. The combined losses would be in the range of up to $90 million.