The TransLink Mayors’ Council is set to debate discounts for some transit riders and ways to ease fare evasion penalties Thursday.
Expanding existing discounts for youth and low-income riders was a key recommendation of last year’s Transit Fare Review, and has been supported by several municipalities, including Vancouver and New Westminster, through the #AllOnBoard campaign.
But while the recommendation before council is supportive of the concept, it calls for any new funding for the idea to come from the provincial government.
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The mayors’ council already backed the idea of looking into provincially funded discounts for low-income residents and youth last June, when it received the final recommendations of its Transit Fare Review.
That’s, in part, because funding free transit for youth would come with a price tag of between $40-50 million per year, while free transit for low-income riders would cost between $25 and $40 million.
To pay for both, TransLink would have to either have to raise property tax between $36 to $49 per year, raise fuel tax three to five cents per litre, hike transit fares by 25 to 35 cents, or cut bus service by eight to 12 per cent.
The Transit Fare Review found strong backing for the discounts but noted that support dropped to under 50 per cent if fares would have to rise in response.
The report to council argues that raising the cash through property taxes or fuel tax would be less fair than funding the discounts provincially through the income tax system.
Mayors will also be looking at options to ease the financial impact of fare evasion penalties for low-income people “who have the least ability to pay full-price transit fares in the first place, let alone the high cost of fare evasion fines.”
Current fines for fare evasion start at $173 and climb to $273 if they aren’t paid within a year.
The council is looking at options including fines adjusted based on ability to pay, alternatives to a monetary fine and reduction of fine amounts for early payments.
Those ideas would be assessed against a variety of considerations including deterring fare evasion, cost to administer, fairness to other riders and actual financial impact on youth and low-income people.