Free passes for school-age and low-income people
Bus fares in Vancouver have increased almost every year. A three zone pass now costs $172/month. The Mayors’ new transit plan includes increasing fares even higher to pay for transit infrastructure. This is totally wrong.
The first step toward universal public transit should be making it free for school-age children and low-income people, as in other cities.
Affordable bus passes for people earning under $50,000
The next step is to provide cheap passes to all people who can’t afford the current fares. Calgary recently introduced a program where transit passes cost between only $5 and $65 per month. The program has been a huge success, increasing transit pass sales by 40% in the first year. In Vancouver, we could start by offering affordable passes to people earning under $50,000 per year.
This will make life much more affordable. For example, most university students in the city pay only about $41/month, saving each transit rider $1,572 per year. The average cost to drive a car is $10,000 per year, whereas a Upass costs only $492 per year.
An affordable pass largely pays for itself. TransLink currently collects about $150 million in fares from Vancouver residents. There are about 450,000 working age people living in the City of Vancouver. If each working-age Vancouverite paid an average of $41/month pass, it would generate $185 million for the transit system annually -- more than the fares collected today.
Advocate to Fund Transit Expansion using Carbon Tax
The cost of expanding the U-Pass program to all residents would involve increasing transit service and infrastructure. We need more buses, B-lines, light-rail, and SkyTrain lines. This should be funded by dedicating Carbon Taxes collected in Vancouver to transit infrastructure. This is something that the NDP campaigned on in 2011, and the City should advocate strongly for this. It's a more just and rational approach than charging higher fares.