Cost of free Winnipeg Transit for kids under 13 pegged at $2.4 million

City councillor Matt Allard is pushing for free transit for kids under 12.
City councillor Matt Allard is pushing for free transit for kids under 12. Matt Allard / Facebook

A campaign promise made by St. Boniface’s councillor would cost the city about $2.4 million, according to a report by Winnipeg Transit.

Coun. Matt Allard has championed the idea of free transit rides for kids under the age of 13, similar to what is done in Toronto and Edmonton.

A report that will go before the city’s Infrastructure committee June 25 says it would cost the city $2.4 million in lost revenue and increased operating costs.

READ MORE: St. Boniface councillor proposes free bus fare for kids under 12

“The expected cost of providing fare-free travel on Winnipeg Transit buses would be approximately $200,000 in increased annual operating costs, with the requirement to purchase up to two additional buses at a cost of approximately
$1.384 million,” reads the report.

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“Additional costs arising from the loss of fare income currently paid by children aged 6-11 is estimated to be approximately $834,000.”

The costs were calculated using Edmonton and Toronto’s numbers as a starting point and estimating from there.

The report states while they know how many people under the age of 18 ride the bus, there is no way to estimate how many of those are children between six and 11.

“The cost of such a program may be able to be minimized by requiring all children under the age of 12 wishing to travel for free to obtain and register a peggo card,” reads the report.

Children five and under currently ride free on Winnipeg Transit. Youth between the ages of 6-17 currently pay a reduced cash fare of $2.45, which is a 30 per cent discount from full fares.

READ MORE: Handi-Transit changing its name to be more inclusive

Allard told Global News Radio 680 CJOB in October that the current system doesn’t work for families with older children, especially as Manitoba’s laws state that children can’t be left unsupervised until they’re 12.

This means many parents – who would have to accompany their under-12s on the bus – are opting out of transit entirely.

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“What’s happening is many parents are choosing not to take the bus, because in many cases, it makes more sense to pay a $12 cab fare or drive than to take transit,” said Allard.

“The roads aren’t getting any bigger, and we’re going to be a million people by 2035, so we need to find ways to get cars off the road and people riding transit.”

Allard said at the time his proposal was unlikely to have a negative impact on Winnipeg Transit fares, adding he recently took the bus with his three-year-old son and saw no other children (of any age) on board.

Read the full report: