Victoria considering offering free transit bus tickets to homeless

Nov 5 2020, 6:12 pm

Victoria City Council is expected to approve a motion today that will set aside municipal funding to provide some transit bus tickets to the local homeless population for free.

This initiative would run under the Victoria Regional Transit Commission’s existing program that sets aside a portion of bus tickets and passes that can be purchased at a reduced rate if they are given for free to low-income individuals with urgent transportation needs.

The motion by city councillors Sharmarke Dubow and Sarah Potts would cost the City of Victoria up to $10,625 per month, based on a one-to-one matching scheme with free tickets from the public transit authority.

Approximately 250 individuals are estimated to be homeless without shelter, living outdoors, in Victoria. The homeless could be offered a monthly sheet of 10 bus tickets at a cost of $22.50 or monthly bus passes ranging from $45 for youth and seniors to $85 for adults.

Both councillors argue this is a necessary expenditure to provide the homeless with the transportation they require to reach shelters and services, which are not necessarily clustered together.

“Those sheltering outdoors in Victoria are typically not in close proximity to survival services including access to shower facilities. This distance will increase for most as new sheltering bylaws are applied,” reads the motion.

“Co-locating shower facilities in parks or opening existing shower facilities that are not currently in operation has been a challenge in terms of physical infrastructure, park bylaws, and city staff capacity. Providing access to transit is one way to address access to survival services including shower facilities.”

If approved, the funding allocation would be reviewed after a period of six months.

In September, the Vancouver City Council green-lighted using $50,000 in funding from the Union of BC Municipalities for a free or reduced cost single-zone monthly transit pass program for between 50 and 100 low-income individuals. The aim is to eventually expand this program to other cities in Metro Vancouver.

Early last month, Victoria City Council also approved a request to the public transit authority for a U-Pass program funded by the municipal government for eligible youth between the ages of 11 and 18 residing in Victoria.

The cost of the program will be $11.25 per youth for a minimum of approximately 4,000 youth. For those that are younger than the age of 11, there will be a variable fee of $11.25 per pass issued.

This youth bus program between January 1 and December 31, 2021, is expected to cost $700,000. Victoria previously piloted free transit passes for youth.

However, free transit for youth ages 12 and under is expected to become a new provincial program, based on the commitment made by the BC NDP during the recent election and their new position with a majority government.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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