Better consultation needed on new fare structure, advocates say
Low-income pass supporters question OC Transpo's decision to use a focus group instead of public consultations to create a new fare structure.
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More consultation is needed before OC Transpo overhauls its fare structure, advocates say.
The transit commission spent hours Wednesday debating a new fare table that would eliminate express fares, hike the adult monthly passes by $6.50 and forgo a low-income transit pass.
But residents pushing for a low-income transit pass questioned how staff came to that conclusion, since the results of a focus group have not been publicized.
“It’s really not transparent,” said Tong Zhao-Ansari with the City for All Women Initiative. “We don’t know what was discussed.”
OC Transpo general manager John Manconi said the transit operator’s consultant lead a focus group of a “representative sample of the city” early in the process, and presented several concepts and configurations of the fare structure.
But he couldn’t immediately offer any more details about the people who took part Wednesday afternoon, although Metro had requested detailed information Tuesday morning.
The staff report on the fare restructuring is vague. It says that, overall, the focus group participants understood why changes were necessary, particularly around the issue of express fares.
Groups like the Healthy Transportation Coalition and Making Voices Count – both active in the push for a low-income pass – weren’t told about or asked to take part in the focus groups, added Heather Badenoch.
She would have preferred a public consultation process where all residents could offer feedback.
“That would have been the democratic process,” she said.
Heather Stecher, a vocal transit advocate who uses Para Transpo and a community pass, said it’s important to know who participated in the focus group.
“Was there anyone with disabilities on it? Was there anybody who has a low-income?” asked Heather Stecher. “They’re not being specific enough.”
Zhao-Ansari said the city has a duty to apply the equity and inclusion lens, but from the report’s sparse information it’s unclear if that actually happened.
Manconi said he would provide consultation details on Thursday.