City approves free transit for vulnerable Edmonton youth

WATCH ABOVE: Accessing the transit can be too expensive for some youth. Now, council is looking to address that problem. Vinesh Pratap explains.

EDMONTON — The City of Edmonton has approved a proposal to provide free local transit to 100 vulnerable youth.

The decision was finalized during a Community Services meeting Monday morning. The commitment allows 100 vulnerable youth to use public transit for the months of October 2015 to March 2016.

“It’ll have a huge impact,” said Geoff Clarke with iHuman.

“A lot of the youth we work with, like one of the main challenges they’re facing is not being able to get around to the city for various…whether it’s appointments, job interviews, school, to get to work if they do have a job.”

The passes will be distributed by Edmonton social agencies. The trial period for the program will begin in October. During that time a study will be conducted to determine whether there is a need for more free passes.

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City staff said they worked closely with several youth-serving organizations over the past few months on the Vulnerable Youth in Transit Project.

“The agencies will determine what youth will receive the passes, and will work together to ensure that all passes are being used,” read the city report.

The passes are seen as a solution to break a cycle where a young person uses transit without paying because they can’t afford it, they are issued a ticket and that ticket ultimately goes unpaid.

“There’s costs to the city, there’s costs to the province and all of this can be solved by actually providing these passes in the first place,” said City Councillor Andrew Knack.

According to the city report, there will no lost revenue for ETS. There are some questions, though, on how peace officers will deal with those who don’t have a free pass and still evade fares.

“I would image what you would see is them using the same questions that the agencies are going to be asking when they’re screening in advance,” said Knack. “So making sure they know what to be looking for, making sure they’re asking those questions so that they can, again, know when they should actually be writing a ticket and when they should be exercising their discretion.”

Youth who use the transit passes will return them each month and answer questions about how they’re using them and how it’s impacted their lives.

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Organizations that were consulted in the project include iHuman, Boyle Street Education Centre, Youth Empowerment and Support Services, Native Counselling Services of Alberta (including a Youth Court Worker), Old Strathcona Youth Society and the Old Strathcona Community Mapping and Planning Committee.