Deanna Ogle: “Yes” vote only a step toward solutions to family transit poverty

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      The Living Wage for Families Campaign endorses a “yes and …” vote in the Metro Vancouver transit referendum. “Yes” because the referendum has the potential to dramatically increase transit options for low-wage working families; “and ...” because we need to work together towards real solutions to transit poverty in our community.

      The living wage takes into account the basic costs of living (transportation, rent, and childcare) within a given region. The Living Wage for Families Campaign, together with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ B.C. office, calculates the living wage in Metro Vancouver to be $20.10 per hour or $36,582 annually. For a two-parent family with two children, this is the estimated annual wage that both parents must make to cover their basic expenses and actively participate in their community. The living wage is a bare-bones calculation and does not cover expenses that many families take for granted, such as saving for their children’s education, repaying debt, or purchasing a home.

      The cost of transportation for a family of four in 2014, according to our living wage calculations, was $486 per month or an annual cost of $5,832. This cost includes the cost of owning and operating a used car as well as a two-zone bus pass for one parent who studies, which is replaced by the discounted U-Pass for eight months of the year. The total cost of public transit for our family is $776 each year or $64.65 per month. This reduced cost is almost entirely due to the U-Pass; a two-zone bus pass is $120 per month while a discounted U-Pass is $35.

      However, many families across B.C. do not make a living wage. In fact, the story of family poverty in B.C. is very much a low-wage story. One in three B.C. children living in poverty live in homes where one parent is working full time, full year. The Living Wage for Families Campaign recognizes that although the proposed 0.5 percent increase in sales tax will have a disproportionate impact on low-wage workers, the resulting transit increases will provide a very real benefit for those same workers who are more likely to rely on transit to get to and from work, school, child care, and community events.

      Increasingly, families are being pushed into less transit-accessible areas in order to find cheaper housing. For many families this means long walks to the bus stop and increased social isolation. By dramatically increasing transit options, the Mayors’ Council and TransLink have promised to link traditionally underserved areas to transit hubs.

      However, we need to continue to organize to address transit poverty in our community. For many low-wage workers, the reality is that they simply cannot afford transit or that they minimize travel to necessary services and community supports due to lack of money. An expanded service will not be helpful for folks for whom the cost of access to that service is already too high. The current living wage in Metro Vancouver is almost double the minimum wage, even after the proposed minimum wage increase takes place in September 2015. We know that in order to make ends meet many working families are faced with stressful choices between absolutely necessary expenses. For example, families are forced to choose between groceries and transit or between travel to the doctor and travel to work.

      The recent victory of the Transportation Not Deportation campaign shows us that success is possible when the community organizes around specific demands. This campaign succeeded in ending the relationship between the TransLink Transit Police and the Canada Border Services Agency, thanks to the coalition-building of grassroots community organizations and the wide support of individuals across Metro Vancouver.

      We can also look to positive models that have attempted to address transit poverty. Seattle recently adopted an expanded low-fare transit program that offers reduced fares for individuals and families who are below an income threshold of $47,700 for a family of four, or families earning less than $13.10 per hour if both parents are working full time, full year. This system is explicitly directed at reducing income inequality.

      The Living Wage for Families Campaign is endorsing a “yes and …” vote for the Metro Vancouver transit referendum and calling on community organizations and individuals who care about access to public transit to keep working for a system that works for all.



      Burnaby Bob

      Apr 16, 2015 at 7:05pm

      I hope the referendum succeeds. It seems unlikely, but I hope.

      On the Gravy Train with $174,000 no bid contracts

      Apr 17, 2015 at 10:10am

      Please read Laila Yuile's blog on a secret $174,000 no-bid contract:

      Translink FOI release of untendered contract extension begs the question: Which is the easier ride: Skytrain or gravy train ?

      If you're in favour of Translink secretly handing out fat contracts with no fixed deliverables to industry insiders, then by all means vote yes. However, if you want to restore some measure of accountability, vote no to corruption and waste.


      Apr 19, 2015 at 7:36pm

      Another "open letter" from a group that all one needs is their name, issue & source of funding to know what their position will be. This is a rare opportunity for tax payers to say "no" to the government and hopefully make them understand we not only want services we want competence. Give us a competently run Translink and I will happily give them more money but at this point, as a regular transit user and local taxpayer, I do not agree with any budget increase.

      w. ham

      Apr 24, 2015 at 1:10pm

      I have voted NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! . with the money that translink has spent on the dumbest trash. why should i give them anymore. You have whatever number of board of directors that answer to no one . and get paid ? how much nobody knows . and the list gets bigger & bigger. Let these fat pocketed airheads take the bus .