Lower Mainland campaign calls for free transit for children and youths up to 18 years old

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      After the examples of New Westminster and Port Moody, other Lower Mainland municipalities, including Vancouver, are expected to hop on a campaign for affordable transit.

      Called All On Board, the movement is calling for free transit for children and youths up to the age of 18.

      The campaign is also advocating for an income-based sliding scale in the pricing of transit passes for adults, as in Calgary.

      Moreover, All On Board is asking for a suspension of ticketing of minors for fare evasion. In addition, the movement is suggesting community service instead of fines for adults who do not pay fares.

      “We have affordable childcare, affordable housing, but when it comes to transit, it’s one price for everybody, whether you make $200,000 or you make $700 a month,” campaigner Viveca Ellis told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Ellis came up with the idea for the All On Board drive as part of her advocacy as cofounder of the Single Mothers’ Alliance B.C. She is currently running the campaign for the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition.

      Ellis noted that Metro Vancouver has fallen behind some jurisdictions in North America in terms of providing equitable access to transit.

      That could change if the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation asked TransLink to adopt a “poverty reduction equity mandate”, according to Ellis.

      “Right now, TransLink has nothing in their mandate that says they have to care about poverty,” she said.

      Ellis feels encouraged by the selection of New Westminster mayor Jonathan Coté as chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

      Free transit for children and youths under the age of 18 was one of the 50 campaign calls issued by Coté when he successfully ran for reelection as New Westminster mayor in the October 2018 municipal election.

      On December 3 this year, New Westminster council adopted a motion by Coté ally and councillor Nadine Nakagawa endorsing the All On Board campaign.

      Port Moody followed the next day, with council approving a similar motion filed by councillor Amy Lubik.

      The two measures suggested that the B.C. government and TransLink should develop a plan for free transit for minors and reduced transit fares for adults.

      In April 2017, Calgary started implementing a sliding scale in transit fees for three low-income categories. For 2018, a single person earning less than $12,669 pays $5.15 for a monthly pass; up to $21,537 in income, $36.05; and earnings of as much as $25,338, $51.50.

      In Seattle, low-income transit riders get a discount. For example, an individual earning a yearly income of no more than $24,120 is entitled to a 50-percent markdown for every single trip.

      Moreover, Seattle city council approved legislation last June providing free transit passes for all public-high-school students and low-income students in middle schools.

      Ellis recalled that in Vancouver the All On Board campaign was supported during the October 2018 election campaign by candidates who eventually prevailed at the ballot box: mayor Kennedy Stewart; councillors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle; and school trustees Barb Parrott, Jennifer Reddy, and Allan Wong.

      Ellis anticipates that a motion endorsing All On Board may be brought before Vancouver city council in early 2019.

      According to Ellis, All On Board is also working with councillors in Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam, and Port Coquitlam.