Vancouver city councillors have voted to support an initiative to give free transit to kids and teens.
The motion was made by Coun. Jean Swanson at Wednesday’s meeting as part of the All on Board campaign. Swanson’s motion also called for an end to ticketing youth for not paying a fare “so we aren’t criminalizing poverty.”
The All on Board campaign focuses on affordable transit based on income, including free transit for youth up to 18.
— BC Poverty Reduction (@PovReductionBC) January 17, 2019
Campaign organizer Viveca Ellis said young people who were in poverty or government care should get access to a public transit system meant to serve everyone.
“Our most vulnerable and at-risk youth are just trying to use our system of public transit to get where they need to go and they’re getting ticketed,” Ellis said. “It’s a $173 ticket, no matter what.”
Because the tickets are linked to the Insurance Corporation of B.C., youth who are ticketed cannot get drivers licences or car insurance.
“We are saddling these youth with debt, because TransLink sends this debt to a collection agency,” Ellis said.
However, in a letter penned to the council, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said fewer than 20 of the 681 tickets handed out to youth in 2018 were referred to ICBC.
Coun. Colleen Hardwick, the only one to vote against the motion, asked if the scope of the request to work out a plan could be narrowed down.
“There is no such thing as a free ride. The money’s got to come from somewhere,” Hardwick said, pointing to Desmond’s letter that said the move could cost $25-40 million per year in lost revenue.
“All kids under 18? Well, there’s kids who come from families across the income spectrum.”
Ellis said the idea is neither new nor radical, and that universal free transit for youth would lead to lifelong transit use in all teens, not just poor ones.
“It’s been implemented in cities across the world. Seattle just implemented free transit for high school students,” she said. “The city of Toronto has free transit from ages zero to 12.”
The All on Board campaign was presented to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation last fall and has received support from New Westminster and Port Moody councils. TransLink staff at the time said they were in talks with the province about it.
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart will now write a letter to TransLink in support of the initiative.