TransLink says free fares for children and youth could reduce annual revenue by tens of millions of dollars

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      TransLink says free fares to everyone under 19 years of age could have a serious effect on its bottom line.

      The regional transportation authority revealed this to the Straight the day before the public is about to speak on this issue to Vancouver city council’s city finances and services committee.

      Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor Jean Swanson has introduced a motion calling on council to endorse the objectives of the All on Board campaign, which is being advanced by antipoverty and labour groups.

      Among its goals is free transit for anyone up to 18 years old and the replacement of fines with community service for anyone caught not paying fares.

      TransLink senior issues management adviser Jill Drews emphasized to the Straight that transit officials don’t know how many child and youth customers use the system.

      That’s because they qualify for concession fares, just as seniors do. And this fare revenue is not broken out by age group.

      Moreover, customers are not asked their age when they purchase Compass cards.

      When it comes to free fares for children and youths and with these caveats in mind, “early analysis suggests this would cost tens of millions of dollars annually”, according to Drews.

      In 2017, TransLink generated $591 million in transit income. This included nearly $10.9 million in revenue from the B.C. government to offset U-Pass administrative costs and to any lost transit revenues from providing discounted fares to postsecondary students.

      That $591-million figure amounted to 35 percent of all revenue.

      TransLink also generated $50.3 million in investment income, $166.9 million in government transfers, and $821.3 million in B.C. Hydro levies and fuel, property, parking, and replacement taxes.