Nova Scotia

Seniors group unhappy with proposed Halifax Transit fee hikes

The head of a Nova Scotia seniors group says he's blindsided by a proposal from Halifax Transit to eliminate the reduced rate seniors pay and have them be charged the full adult rate.

Proposal would see seniors pay a dollar more a trip and monthly pass increase $24.50 as of Sept. 30

Halifax Transit wants seniors to pay a dollar more a trip in order to allow children under 12 to ride free. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

The head of a Nova Scotia seniors group says he's blindsided by a proposal from Halifax Transit to eliminate the reduced rate seniors pay and have them be charged the full adult rate.

The proposal is set to be debated at the transportation committee meeting at city hall Thursday afternoon.

A staff report recommends establishing a pilot program that would offer free transit for all children up to age 12, but to offset that cost, seniors would see their prices jump by a dollar a trip from $1.75 to $2.75 as of Sept. 30.

The hope is that if children are used to taking public transportation, they'll be more likely to stick to it once they have to pay, and it will increase ridership in the long term.

Bill VanGorder, a spokesperson for CARP Nova Scotia, said he's extremely concerned about the proposal.

"It is upsetting to us and really unfair to find that announcement we only heard about [Tuesday] is going before a committee [Thursday]," he said.

Bill VanGorder is astounded the price hike for seniors is being proposed without any consultation. (CBC)

"We would certainly support the idea of making it more accessible to children, but that doesn't mean you take the opportunity away from people of another age who really need it."

The city declined comment until after the proposal is formally discussed at Thursday's meeting.

Seniors would also see an increase in the cost of a monthly pass, which would go from $58 to $82.50, an increase of more than 40 per cent.

The cost of a 10 pack of tickets for seniors would jump by more than 70 per cent, from $14.50 to $24.75.

The proposal suggests the cost increases for seniors will generate around $600,000 a year in added revenue, which is approximately the same expected loss of changing the children's fee structure.

Free rides on parts of Tuesdays for seniors wouldn't change

Under the proposal, seniors would still be able to ride free on parts of Tuesdays and there will still programs in place to help vulnerable seniors.

VanGorder believes working seniors, in particular, would bear the brunt of the price hike.

"These are people who use the public transportation regularly," he said. "They are not people who will just use it midday on Tuesdays."

VanGorder said seniors would understand if there was an increase in fares, but to increase the cost by more than 50 per cent is unreasonable for those on a fixed income.

"Why they would want to do something like this to the very people who frankly are the ones who are still voting in elections is surprising?" said VanGorder.

'Very unfair'

He said CARP will be looking closely at the proposal and will contact local politicians.

He's questioning the timing and lack of consultation by Halifax Transit on such a dramatic change.

"Doing this in the middle of a summer, it's very unfair and I hope they didn't do it this way on purpose," said VanGorder.

Other proposed cost changes

Under the proposal, adult fares would jump 10 per cent from $2.50 to $2.75, while the cost of a 10-ticket bundle would increase by 23.75 per cent from $20 to $24.75. The cost of an adult monthly pass would increase from $78 to $82.50.

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