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Lest we forget (the bus fare)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/11/2017 (968 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

"When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!"
Lord Alfred Tennyson




While most of us would agree with the English poet that the military should be honoured, Winnipeg apparently feels the courtesies extended to veterans shouldn’t include the $2.65 cost of a bus ticket.

In Tuesday’s Free Press, retired Winnipeg Transit driver George Morrison lamented the fact Winnipeg Transit doesn’t offer free rides for veterans on Remembrance Day. Mr. Morrison, who was a sea cadet before he became a bus driver, emailed Mayor Brian Bowman to tell him he finds it embarrassing our city doesn’t extend the courtesy.

After all, other Canadian cities — including Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa — have found sponsorship partners to offer veterans free rides on Remembrance Day. When Calgary’s city council voted on the matter two years ago, it voted unanimously in favour.

And really, why not?

Offering a free ride to veterans on Remembrance Day — even only during the morning — would be a way to show respect to those who have made enormous sacrifices for our country. Just as affixing a poppy to our lapels is a small but significant gesture, or attending a Remembrance Day service. Of course, even small gestures require a bit of effort and planning — but if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Some might argue there’s no such thing as a free ride, but it’s worth noting Winnipeg Transit does offer free rides. With some regularity, in fact.

For the past several holiday seasons, the Free Ride program, offered by Winnipeg Transit in partnership with Manitoba Public Insurance, has run every New Year’s Eve from 7 p.m. until end of service. The program is meant to keep those imbibing holiday cheer off the road and, as such, is open to all riders.

Then there’s the Fan Fare program. Blue Bombers fans can catch a free ride home from Investors Group Field, so long as they show their game-day ticket.

As well, Winnipeg Transit operates three free daily shuttles as part of its Downtown Spirit network. Those routes are available to all riders.

So, it seems it’s a matter of will, then. Offering free rides to veterans on Remembrance Day was determined to be "too complicated and too costly," which is the response a still-employed Transit operator received from the city when Sam Katz was mayor. Even though we are, realistically, talking about a smaller subsection of riders, on a reduced schedule. (Transit usually operates on a Sunday schedule on holidays.)

In the end, the financial cost of letting veterans ride for free is relatively miniscule. The number of veterans who might choose to ride the bus on Saturday is small, perhaps 500 people.

It’s a small gesture, but a gesture with big significance.


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Updated on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:29 AM CST: Photo added.

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