PoMo council wants free transit for youth

Port Moody is the second city in Metro Vancouver to get on board the #AllonBoard campaign, which advocates free transit for kids up to age 18 and reduced fares for low-income people.

At its meeting Tuesday, Port Moody council unanimously endorsed a motion presented by newly elected Coun. Amy Lubik to support the campaign, which was started last summer by a coalition of community advocacy groups, including the Single Mothers’ Alliance and the Poverty Reduction Coalition.

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Council will also ask the TransLink Mayors' Council to request the transportation authority suspend fines for fare evasion issued to minors and allow low-income adults with current tickets to pay them off with community service.

New Westminster council passed a similar resolution Monday.

In her report to council, Lubik said, “Inequality in our society is currently growing and this initiative is a potential tool to allow youth and low-income residents more access to jobs, education, service and social connections.” She added similar initiatives in nine other communities across Canada had positive financial, physical, social and quality-of-life effects.

That reality was driven home by a young woman with bright purple hair named Breezy who told council she was on crutches and working a minimum wage job when she purchased a concession ticket to get home on transit because that’s all she had the money for; when transit police caught her with the insufficient fare, they forced her to hobble home.

“Police were protecting transit, they weren’t protecting me,” she said. “People at most risk can’t advocate for themselves.”

Coun. Diana Dilworth said when she was a young, single mother, she often had to make a choice between walking home 18 blocks or risk riding transit without a ticket.

Viveca Ellis, a community organizer for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition said social agencies in the community often cover transit fines for young people because they can end up becoming a crippling burden in their hunt for a job, an apartment or even viable credit.

“We often hear the refrain we can’t afford to do this,” she said. “Now is the time for the investment we need so we don’t download the cost of this to other ticket buyers.”

Lubik said making transit free for young users will also end up benefitting the environment in the long run as they’re more likely to become transit users for life instead of relying on a car.

In its draft review of transit fares released last summer, TransLink recommended an expansion of discounts for children, youth and low-income residents if those discounts are subsidized by funding from senior levels of government or increased fares for other users.

TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan said, based on current ridership levels, allowing kids up to 18 years-old to ride transit for free would cost $35 million a year.

VOTING RIGHTS

PoMo council is also throwing its unanimous support behind the Fresh Voices campaign to secure the right for permanent residents to vote in B.C. municipal elections. Currently, only Canadian citizens can vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections.

“From the municipal standpoint, my experience has been many of the permanent residents I know are involved citizens,” said Coun. Meghan Lahti in supporting the resolution, which was also put forward by Lubik.

It will be forwarded for consideration at the Lower Mainland Local Government Association’s 2019 convention and then on to the subsequent Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention.

mbartel@tricitynews.com

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