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B.C. communities want free transit access for youth, seniors

Victoria riders scour province for municipal support for province to cover youth, senior bus passes
Langford, Saanich and Oak Bay all support a pair of resolutions expected at the September UBCM convention calling for free transit for youth under 18 and seniors over 65.

Even as a rallying cry by the Raging Grannies call for better inter-community bus service, Island municipalities are lining up to pitch the province to provide free rides for youth and seniors. 

“If you need a bus then make a fuss and hope they’ll hear your plea,” the Raging Grannies sang June 11, calling for better service, particularly connecting remote towns across the province.

The Victoria Transit Riders Union is calling on municipalities on the Island and across the water to support its push for free transit for those under 18 and over 65. Langford, Oak Bay and Saanich all supported recent motions to take two resolutions to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference late this summer.

Saanich Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff wrote the report and draft resolution presented to, and supported by, that council.

"Beyond affordability, free transit for seniors promotes social inclusion and fosters connections within our communities,” Phelps Bondaroff said. “By breaking down transportation barriers, we empower seniors to maintain active social lives, attend gatherings, and stay connected with loved ones, thereby enhancing their overall mental and physical well-being."

The youth resolution calls on the province to expand the Get On Board program, which currently allows children aged 12 and under to ride all BC Transit and TransLink services for free, to include young people aged 18 and under. The second resolution calls on the provincial government to make transit free for seniors aged 65 and older.

“Transit fares might not seem like a significant expenses to some, but for other members of our community, a priced transit system means choosing between meals and getting to school, between getting to work and extracurricular activities for their children; between attending a job interview and paying for rent,” Isabelle Easton, a student representative of University of Victoria Student Society told Saanich council.

UVic lies within both Saanich and Oak Bay, where council also supported the motions. 

“Encouraging young people to use public transportation early in life can lead to lifelong habits of sustainable transportation. Free transit for youth and seniors improves affordability, social inclusion and well-being”, said Oak Bay Coun. Carrie Smart, who brought the resolutions to the floor in that community. 
Victoria Transit Riders Union is seeking support from municipalities across the province. 

“Social isolation is a significant issue in Canada, and studies have shown that building connected communities is one of the most effective ways to combat this problem. Accessible public transit is an incredibly important part of achieving that,”  member Alyssa Allen said during the Oak Bay meeting.
Both resolutions will be debated during the 2024 UBCM Convention in Vancouver Sept. 16 to 20.

About the Author: Greater Victoria News Staff

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