One of the questions TransLink is asking the public in its ongoing fare review is about discounts for poor riders. According to the regional transportation agency, there are about 300,000 low-income people in Metro Vancouver who do not get discounted transit passes.
At present, the provincial government provides subsidized passes only to low-income seniors and people receiving disability assistance. TransLink, for its part, supports this program by providing these passes to the province at a discount.
In its discussion guide, TransLink states that if “no external funding is available, any additional discounts may come from modest increases to fares for other riders”.
“Should TransLink explore ways to expand the discounted fare to low-income residents?” TransLink asks.
As far as New Westminster city councillor Patrick Johnstone is concerned, subsidized fares for poor riders shouldn’t come out of the pockets of other transit users, who may earn a little bit more but are not necessarily well-off.
“I have a concern about, you know, [the] working poor who don’t necessarily make the low-income cutoff paying more to ride in order to support people who do make the low-income cutoff,” Johnstone told the Straight in a phone interview. “I don’t want the relatively-low-income people paying for the more-low-income people. That’s not a progressive way to structure the system.”
In the discussion guide, TransLink states that the low-income threshold for one person in Metro Vancouver is $20,386 before tax per year. For a family of seven people, it’s $53,460.
Johnstone said he is interested in hearing from the provincial government about what it intends to do for low-income riders. The New Westminster councillor believes that it’s the responsibility of the province, not TransLink, to deal with the issue of discounted transit passes for the poor.
“It would be more successful, it’s easier to administer, it would work better if another agency under the provincial government was able to provide transit access, a discount, through TransLink as opposed to TransLink riders paying for this,” Johnstone said.
Members of the public have until December 8 to fill out TransLink’s survey, which deals with three main issues: distance-based fares, fare options for frequent riders, and discounts.