Sudbury City Hall

No more free Monday bus rides for seniors in Sudbury

Delores Higgins used to arrange outings for seniors around Sudbury, Ont., on Mondays when public transit was free for people over the age of 65.

'I know a lot of seniors in our community will no longer be taking the bus'

Seniors used to be able to use public transportation in Sudbury, Ont., for free on Mondays as part of a 2016 pilot project. (Hilary Duff/CBC)
Delores Higgins used to arrange outings for seniors around Sudbury, Ont., on Mondays when public transit was free for people over the age of 65.

Higgins estimates between 15 to 20 people learned how to take the bus with her last year. Together, they discovered new parts of Sudbury. 

"I hadn't gone that way before. I had no reason to," Higgins said about visiting Chelmsford and Hanmer. 

"It's just an adventure."

The perk Higgins and her group used to enjoy is now over. 

A pilot project that offered free rides to seniors on Mondays last year has been discontinued because the price was seen as too high by city council.
Delores Higgins used to organize outings with seniors on Mondays when public transportation was free for people over the age of 65.

The cost to continue the service in 2017 would have been $100,000.

Program encouraged seniors to make appointments on Mondays

"To me, it's a real slap in the face," said Barb Nott, co chair of the city's Seniors Advisory Panel.

"It was an opportunity for seniors to get out of their homes instead of being isolated in the home."
Barbara Nott is disappointed by council's decision to discontinue free public transit rides for seniors on Mondays. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Councillor Evelyn Dutrisac, who is on the Seniors Advisory Panel, tried to keep free transit for seniors on Mondays, but the majority of her colleagues did not support her.

"A lot of our seniors are finding it hard to make ends meet," Dutrisac said.

"This free service was permitting them to organize their appointments or their trips to different services on Mondays."
Sudbury city councillor Evelyn Dutrisac tried to convince her colleagues to continue offering free transit for seniors on Mondays. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

At its peak, the pilot program brought in up to 4,000 rides per month.

'Money could be going towards something else'

Monique Mercier started taking the bus on Mondays last year, but now she is not sure she will continue.

"I know a lot of seniors in our community will no longer be taking the bus," Mercier said.

"They won't because that money could be going towards something else."

The city will offer older adults training on how to use the bus, according to transit director Michelle Ferrigan.

Councillor wants to see public transportation free for seniors

But councillor Robert Kirwan, who also sits on the Seniors Advisory Panel, wants to make public transportation free for older adults all the time. 
Sudbury city councillor Robert Kirwan is in favour of having free bus rides for seniors. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

"I do not feel that we should be putting a financial barrier on them to move around the city," Kirwan said.

"I think we have to take a look at a program that could be as drastic as allowing them to ride free on public transit."

Bus fares expected to climb

Now that the pilot is over, the city is also considering a three per cent fare increase. 

If approved by council, the cost of taking the bus for seniors will go up five cents from $2.25 to $2.30 in February.

The fee for adults will rise 10 cents from $3.10 to $3.20.

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Senior reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC's Parliamentary Bureau based in Ottawa. She previously worked in Toronto, Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter at @CBCOlivia. Send story tips to: olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.