Kitchener-Waterloo

Bump in GRT transit pass will impact people living on low incomes, anti-poverty advocate says

Grand River Transit is set to increase the price of an adult monthly pass by $4 this fall but anti-poverty advocate Sandee Lovas says even that will make it difficult for people on low or fixed incomes.

‘When you’re that broke, you can’t handle a $20 emergency,’ says Sandee Lovas

Sandee Lovas is with the group Alliance Against Poverty and says the increase to Grand River Transit adult monthly passes starting in September will impact people on low and fixed incomes. She says she remembers when she struggled to keep up financially and paying an extra $4 a month would have impacted her. (Joe Pavia/CBC)

Grand River Transit is set to increase the price of a monthly pass by $4 this fall and that will impact people who are living on law and fixed incomes, anti-poverty advocate Sandee Lovas says.

"I did live on a fixed income, I've lived in poverty, so I'm well aware of what happens when anything increases in price when you're in those situations," she said.

If you're on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program, the last week of a month can be the hardest because by then you're just out of cash, she says.

"When you're that broke, you can't handle a $20 emergency," Lovas said.

"You really start to think, OK, do I need this bus pass? Or do I need to pay my hydro bill? Or am I willing to go a little bit in debt hoping someday I'll be able to climb out of it," she added.

"Sometimes the bus pass can make all the difference in the world because it can get you to the soup kitchen, it can get you to the food bank, it can get you to somebody else who's going to help you out."

Low-income options limited

Regional council approved a three per cent increase to Grand River Transit fares in its budget earlier this year. On May 28 at the planning and works committee meeting, staff reported the adult monthly pass will go up from $86 to $90 as of September 1.

The cost of a reduced monthly pass for seniors and elementary and high school students will also rise from $73 to $75.

GRT does offer a Transportation for Reduced Incomes Program (TRIP) pass for $43, but caps the number of people who can have the pass at 1,600. There were also an additional 500 people that were part of a study group.

The cost of the TRIP pass is not increasing.

Regional Coun. Elizabeth Clarke argued when council approved the budget, it was her understanding they'd be doing more to help improve transit accessibility for people on low and fixed incomes.

The cost of transit in the region is higher than the median in Ontario, she said.

"That's problematic," she said in the meeting, adding the number of people who are able to use the TRIP pass is a "small fraction" of the people who need it.

Regional staff said they are preparing another report for the planning and works committee that looks at the TRIP pass and what more can be done to help low income riders. That report is expected this fall.

A person steps off a Grand River Transit bus on King Street in Kitchener. The adult monthly pass is set to go up in price by $4 on September 1 and anti-poverty advocates warn it will impact people living on low and fixed incomes. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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