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Low-income bus passes will be part of budget review process



Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/11/2018 (591 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg has moved one stop closer to offering a low-income transit pass.

After dealing with questions about how much such a program would cost, how to pay for it, and how it would affect already crowded buses, a City of Winnipeg committee passed a motion for it be part of 2019 budget review process.

If the proposal survives the budget process, it would be 2020 before a low-income pass is phased in, the committee on infrastructure renewal and public works was told.

In the meantime, city administration was directed to keep looking at how to administer a low-income transit pass program and consult with community groups to make sure it's accessible. It was also tasked with consulting with provincial government to see if it is willing to be a partner -- administratively and/or financially.

"Many people speak in favour of the low-income bus pass, but I think many questions have to be asked," Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James), chairman of the finance committee, told counterparts on the public works committee.

He said he supports the concept, but questioned the timing, when an operational review of Winnipeg Transit is underway: "Shouldn't we do that first?"

Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) said she, too, supports the idea, however, "I think it should be tied to the operational review."

She said her No. 1 concern at the moment is overcrowding, as many students have latched on to the affordable U-Pass and buses to and from the University of Manitoba are packed. Lukes worries introducing a low-income bus pass will make overcrowding even worse.

According to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary, however, that's not likely to happen. He told the committee those who'd qualify for a low-income pass would most likely ride at off-peak hours.

"Seventy to 80 per cent of assaults are due to fare disputes," said Chaudhury, citing anecdotal evidence and 18 years of experience, adding he is in favour of the program -- for the dignity of riders and the safety of bus operators.

One of the options the city is looking at is a monthly pass, pegged at 50 per cent off the full adult fare for those 18 to 64. It would carry an estimated price tag of $50.05.

"$50 can mean a lot to people," Daniel McIntyre Coun. Cindy Gilroy told the committee during its meeting at city hall.

"This hasn't been an easy process to get to where we are to date. I really want to see the motion go forward."

For some, even a $50 monthly bus pass is still too much, Ellen Smirl with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told the committee. She urged the city to look at options for lowering single fares, and to be mindful of the homeless and those who may not have ID or tax returns to prove their income.

Carlos Sosa, an activist who is disabled, asked the committee to support the low-income pass but not if it results in Transit service cuts or hiking Handi-transit fares to pay for it. "It does require that the provincial government step up to the plate here," said Sosa.

"It's vital we get it right," said Josh Brandon with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. Transit is a life line for many Winnipeggers and all levels of government need to get behind making it more affordable, he told the committee.

"I've talked with seniors who missed medical appointment because they can't afford bus fare... and employers who find that workers aren't getting to jobs (because of the high cost of transit). It puts a strain on families."

The infrastructure renewal and public works committee ordered monthly verbal updates starting in January on the progress of consultations with community groups and government stakeholders on implementing the low-income bus pass.


Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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