Vancouver Park Board is joining the push to eliminate transit fares for kids.
Commissioners this week voted in favour of supporting the #AllOnBoard campaign that is lobbying to make transit free for residents under the age of 18 as well as reduced fares for low-income adults based on a sliding scale. The motion, proposed by commissioner John Irwin, comes two weeks after Vancouver city council adopted a similar motion brought forward by his COPE colleague Coun. Jean Swanson.
“Getting to and from facilities is a challenge for people and I think it’s a double challenge for people [with a] low income,” Irwin said. “We’re seeing a lack of transportation as a common reason for people of low income and average families not being able to access facilities including parks and beaches.”
Specifically, the motion directs the board to write letters to TransLink, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and the province to ask TransLink to work with the provincial government to secure funding and develop a plan to provide free transit to minors as well as introduce a reduced fares based on a sliding scale for low-income people.
“Access to our city is incredibly important for our young people,” said board chair Stuart Mackinnon, who is also a teacher.
Mackinnon said he teaches at a school in the southeast end of the city and he knows many students who have never been to places like Stanley Park, Gastown, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden or even one of the city’s beaches, in part because of the cost of taking a bus and SkyTrain to get there and back.
He also said the cost of transit can be an issue for schools when it comes to field trips.
“From a park board point of view, as we are making our recreational services more accessible and more affordable for our children it certainly makes sense to make the centres themselves more accessible by allowing free transportation for our children to get to our centres… this evens out the playing field for all of our kids.”
A second part of the motion, which was voted on separately, will see the park board write a second letter to the mayors’ council asking them to require TransLink to adopt a poverty reduction/equity mandate, to stop ticking minors for fare evasion, to unlink ICBC from fare evasion tickets and to stop ticketing adults.
While the first part of the motion passed unanimously, commissioners John Coupar and Tricia Barker voted against the second part, voicing concerns about putting an end to handing out tickets for fare evasion.
Campaign coordinator Viveca Ellis, who also works with the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition and Community Action Network, said #AllOnBoard was officially launched during last fall’s municipal election campaign.
Since then the campaign has received a long list of endorsements from community groups and local governments. In December, New Westminster and Port Moody councils approved motions similar to those approved this month by Vancouver city council and park board. As well, #AllOnBoard has received support from Vancouver District and Labour Council, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood House and Women Transforming Cities.
Metro Vancouver would not be the first region to introduce free transit for minors.
The city of Calgary has a sliding scale for adult transit passes, Victoria is currently considering getting rid of transit fares for anyone under 19 and Seattle last year introduced free transit passes for all high school students. In Toronto kids 12 and under ride for free and in Edmonton children under 12 ride for free when travelling with a paying adult.