Motion on free transit for youth to be debated by Vancouver council

Coun. Jean Swanson wants Vancouver to endorse a plan to allow youth to ride free and end fare-evasion fines for minors.

Coun. Jean Swanson wants Vancouver to endorse plan to allow youth to ride free

Coun. Jean Swanson wants Vancouver council to endorse a campaign to provide free transit to riders up to 18 years old. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Vancouver Coun. Jean Swanson wants her colleagues to support a campaign that would have children up to 18 years old ride free on transit.

Swanson's motion goes before council on Tuesday and asks that the city write a series of letters giving formal support to the #AllonBoard campaign.

In addition to free rides for youth in Metro Vancouver, it also calls for monthly pass fees based on income and an immediate end to the ticketing of minors for fare evasion.

If you are caught on TransLink without a valid fare, the fine is $173.

"Kids between 12 and 18 still don't have much money and need to be able to ride the bus," said Swanson. "And sometimes they're the ones most likely to be out at night and most likely to be in a dangerous situation and really need the transit."

It costs a youth $1.90 to travel in one zone in Metro Vancouver on TransLink. Monthly passes are $54. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Swanson's motion also argues that not having transportation is the most common reason for missing medical appointments and is a barrier to social inclusion and accessing the labour market.

Currently a single-zone fare for TransLink costs $1.90 for a youth, while a monthly pass is $54.

"If you're a family of five it would take about $20 of transit fares to go from East Van to the beach, for example, and [a] lot of people don't have that kind of money," said Swanson.

Follow other cities

She said other cities are offering some form of free transit. In Toronto, youth 12 and under ride free. Seattle recently provided free transit passes to high school students.

Swanson's motion would have TransLink work with the provincial government to find funding to pay for the change.

Several Vancouver residents CBC spoke to liked the idea, but resident Kelly Watt said she didn't agree with it because she feels it creates an unfair system.

"There's a lot of people that are getting minimum wage that are 20 or older, so why is it fair that they are living and trying to pay their transit trying to get to work?" she said.

'No transit trip is free'

Gordon Price, an urban planner who served six terms as the Vancouver city councillor and was appointed to the first TransLink board in 1999, said free fares for certain people could erode the service overall.

"No transit trip is free. Someone is going [to have] to pay, or services are going to be cut or not expanded," he said.

He also says not fining people caught without paid fares will open the system up to more abuse and resentment from paying riders.

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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