Kitchener-Waterloo

Low income transit pass gets approval from regional councillors, could be in place next April

Regional councillors have approved moving to a low income transit program for residents. The move still needs council approval and to go through the 2020 budget process.

Coun. Clarke proposes implementing new program in 1 year, rather than phase it in over 3 years

Regional councillors have approved a new low income transit (LIT) program, but final approval won't come until budget deliberations. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A new program to help low-income people in Waterloo region pay for transit has been approved by regional councillors, and could be in place by next spring.

The program would replace all existing transit fare programs with a new Low Income Transit (LIT) program. It would offer discounted monthly passes to residents in the region who live on low incomes, based on household incomes.

To meet the threshold of low income, it would mean people would need to make approximately $18,430 or less as an individual, or $36,870 or less for a family of four.

Seniors, high school students and adult students would not automatically qualify for the program.

During a committee meeting on Tuesday, regional councillors approved of the program, but Coun. Elizabeth Clarke argued the LIT program should be implemented in one year, rather than the recommended phased-in approach over three years.

"We have thousands of people in our community that we saw on the list who've been waiting for several years for this," Clarke said.

"These people are living in financial difficulties and I'm really not comfortable saying to them after all this that they need to wait another 15 months or two years or more to see the benefit."

More approvals needed

The staff report said the LIT program would see the region lose $681,000 in transit revenue, but that was if the program was phased-in over three years.

Coun. Sean Strickland asked staff to come back to next Wednesday's council meeting with exact financial details on what the impact will be if they move ahead with implementing the program in just one year.

"I think it's a fantastic idea. I think it's something we need to do, but I think we just need a little more detail on how that would all fit together," he said.

The report will return to regional council for the meeting on Sept. 18 and if approved, would be part of the 2020 budget deliberations.

If approved during the budget, the new LIT program could go into effect April 1, 2020.

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