News / Ottawa

Simplicity is key for low-income pass, advocates say

The city hasn't made room for a low-income transit pass in its new fare structure, but going back to basics could make it possible.

Heather Stecher, a long-time transit advocate, says OC Transpo can fund the low-income transit pass if it goes back to basics.

Emma Jackson/Metro

Heather Stecher, a long-time transit advocate, says OC Transpo can fund the low-income transit pass if it goes back to basics.

A low-income transit pass is possible if OC Transpo just goes back to basics, a community group says.

The Transit Working Group will bring an alternative fare table to the transit commission Wednesday morning, when commissioners vote on a total system overhaul ahead of light rail.

Advocates were appalled last week when the new fare table was released without a low-income transit pass – and a $6.50 monthly fare hike for adult pass holders.

“If low-income people can already not pay for their pass, how do they figure they’re going to pay ($6.50) more a month?” asked advocate Heather Stecher.

Right now, about 8,800 low-income transit users don’t qualify for discount passes, according to staff calculations.

Staff have laid out three options for funding a low-income transit pass (assuming the province doesn’t agree to foot the $3.3-million bill): increase other discount fares, spread it across all monthly passes, or hike the regular adult pass to $118.25.

Stecher’s group is instead suggesting the city offer one regular monthly pass and one low-income pass, plus cash and e-purse fares. They didn't have dollar amounts worked out on Tuesday.

The plan would let any person living below the low-income cut off access affordable transit. Anyone above it – regardless of student, senior or disability status – would pay regular fares, Stecher said.

City staff wouldn’t comment on the network overhaul ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

But Coun. Jeff Leiper, a commission member and a vocal low-income pass supporter, said juggling the fare structure to serve everyone – without raising taxes or adjusting the fare box ratio - is tougher than it looks.

“Its frustrating,” he said. He’s not sure he agrees with the group, which would cancel categories like the child’s cash fare.

Leiper suggested budget season is the best time to promote the pass, instead of trying to carve it out of existing fares.

“It’s going to take more thinking than we’re able to do tomorrow around the committee table,” he said.

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