Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Transit justice

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Students at the University of Manitoba want the province and city to help pay for a new cut-rate bus pass that could be used anywhere, anytime. They say it would lower student costs, increase Transit use and ease congestion and pollution by getting gas-guzzling cars off the road.

These are good and noble causes, but then the same could be said for lowering fares for the poor, the elderly or people who don’t own a car. In fact, eliminating fares for everyone would also serve the cause of social justice, albeit at a much steeper price to the taxpayer.

University students already get a reduced fare, but they want a bigger reduction, which they say could be obtained with a higher government subsidy and with the requirement that every student be forced to buy a pass. The idea is that an economy of scale would help reduce the cost to the taxpayer. The disabled and those living outside the city would be exempt.

It is fundamentally wrong, however, to force every student to buy a bus pass to support those who rely on the bus or who do not want to drive a car for environmental reasons. It also penalizes students who live long distances from the university and who have chosen to drive or carpool. If there is to be a further investment in Transit, it should be to make the system faster and more efficient. That would also serve social justice while increasing ridership.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

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