Pre-teens living in the West Kootenay can hop on public transit for free starting Sept. 1.
“Kids 12 and under will be able to ride without paying fare in the whole province, including Trail and Castlegar,” Trevor Stach, general manager for NextGen Transit (formerly Trail Transit) told the Times.
“This change is a provincially funded and a sponsored change,” he said. “This is a new process and we are still receiving information about it and the process of implementation, but we are excited to grow our ridership within this group.”
Anyone who typically buys fares for tweens, which are $2.25 per rider in the West Kootenay or $45 for a monthly bus pass, will no longer need to do so.
This means West Kootenay families can save up to $540 annually per child within the 12 and under age group.
Furthermore, unaccompanied children aged six to 12 will be able to ride public transit for free without requiring a fare product or identification.
Of note, BC Transit requires children aged five and under to be accompanied by a person 12 years or older.
While Stach didn’t have a breakdown with specific numbers in the Kootenays for the under-12 age group, anecdotally he said children 12 and younger account for between 10 and 15 per cent of NextGen Transit’s ridership.
The province made this “Get on Board” announcement last week, which applies to this specific age group on any BC Transit or TransLink service.
It is estimated that approximately 370,000 children 12 and under throughout B.C. will be eligible to ride for free when the program launches.
Trail Transit name change
In early 2021, Trail Transit was awarded a contract to operate BC Transit systems of the East Kootenay (Columbia Valley, Elk Valley, Kimberley, Cranbrook and Creston), and will be expanding again this fall into another system.
“With the much expanded area of operations a shift away from a geographically-based name, it was appropriate, and I am the second generation in the company, which influenced the name ‘NextGen Transit Inc.,’” Stach explained. “There are no other structure changes, only a name change and some title changes.”
NextGen Transit now operates more than 40 BC Transit vehicles from Golden to Rock Creek.