Passengers wait to board a bus at Surrey Central Station.

Keep free transit trips for homeless, TransLink urged

Compass cards, fare gates pose social service challenge

TransLink is being urged to ensure homeless people continue to get free use of the transit system for certain trips after the new Compass smart card and fare gates are launched this fall.

Advocacy groups across Metro Vancouver have long distributed single-use transit tickets to ensure homeless clients can get transportation to a shelter when needed, or to key appointments, such as for medical care and job interviews.

Money to buy those FareSaver tickets comes from the provincial government via B.C. Housing.

But Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs wants TransLink to ensure some replacement system is in place once fare gates take effect and old ticket types are phased out.

“It will be a lot harder to get on SkyTrain and the Canada Line with fare gates,” he said. “People are going to need some kind of card to get through the gate.”

Meggs said homeless people may simply be able to board a bus without paying or showing any ticket – as many do already – but he argues they shouldn’t have to endure being treated as fare evaders.

“This is about replacing an existing service,” Meggs stressed. “These are specific trips paid for by the province for reasons determined valid by a service provider.”

Meggs hasn’t proposed giving the homeless free transit passes, although he said he’s willing to separately consider the merits of that as well, noting transit fares are a major obstacle for homeless people trying to look for work.

He said transit is a way to level the playing field across income groups.

But Meggs has heard from plenty of critics angry with any talk of transit subsidies or free rides for some.

“It’s getting tangled up in the fare evasion issue and the discomfort some people feel in providing any assistance to the homeless,” he said.

TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling said talks are underway with community partners to find a solution that keeps transit accessible to vulnerable people, such as the homeless.

“We’re still in talks about how to approach this,” Ling said, adding TransLink is committed to treating customers “with dignity and respect.”

Under the new system, passengers will tap Compass cards against readers at each end of a transit trip and their account will be debited accordingly.

Ling said passengers who don’t have a regular Compass card will be able to use cash to buy a cardboard version of the card valid for a single day only on buses and at stations.

Also up in the air is a provincially subsidized transit program for 86,000 low-income seniors and people on disability assistance – they can buy an annual transit pass good anywhere in B.C. for $45 a year.

Ling said TransLink hopes to accommodate that program through the Compass card system, but offered no specifics.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman said it’s fair to continue to provide free trips for the homeless to reach shelter, health and job appointments.

“Obviously you want to be sensitive to lower-income people and be as helpful as possible,” he said.

The key issue, Bateman said, is to ensure any new passes for the homeless get used by the intended clients and aren’t resold on the black market, as happened in the past with student U-Passes.

“It surprises me that TransLink wouldn’t have figured these issues out already.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension faces potential delays due to COVID-19

Pandemic ‘adversely’ impacting TransLink’s finances; ‘much work’ required to approve next investment plan

SIMPSON: For real leadership amid crisis, look west of Scott Road

Delta council, under direction of Mayor George Harvie, defines leadership during pandemic

PHOTOS: Loved ones reunite at Peace Arch Park ‘oasis’

Officials closed the park in mid-March over coronavirus concerns

Cloverdale businessman funds wells in Cambodia

Revive Washing in Clayton Heights donates three per cent of profits to charity

Cloverdale youth pastor’s sexual-assault sentencing delayed

Samuel Emerson due to return to Surrey Provincial Court in August

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Chilliwack teachers, assistants concerned with lack of PPE guidelines ahead of school reopening

As schools get ready to open, many worry measures won’t be enough to protect students from COVID-19

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

Most Read